The dialects of Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland and Utrecht


Eric Hoekstra & Harrie Scholtmeijer


2004, Leuvense Bijdragen 93, 77-149.


I. Introduction


1.1. On the rationale behind the current enterprise

In this article, or rather collection of articles, we present an overview of the current state of linguistic research on the dialects of the three western provinces: Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland and Utrecht. Together they form the so-called Randstad, the most-urbanised part of the country, that houses cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Den Haag (The Hague)

The last time an overview work was written was in 1966 (Weijnen 1966). There are four important differences between Weijnen’s work and our own.

First of all, the work of Weijnen encompasses not only the Dutch dialects of ALL the provinces of The Netherlands but also the Dutch dialects of Belgium. Our work only covers the three central western provinces.

Second, the work of Weijnen was broader in scope, containing also information on dialectological methods. Our work deals merely with dialectology and linguistics, although we do give a brief overview of sociolinguistics and history as well. By drawing attention to neglected areas of research we present the outline of a research program for research on the area which we study here.

Third, Weijnen’s work was written in 1966 and now it is some thirty-odd years later. In other words, it is time for an update. A lot of interesting work has been done since 1966.

Fourth, Weijnen’s work was written in Dutch, and hence it was not generally available to the international scientific community. We write in English in order to make the world of Dutch dialect research internationally available. This is relevant for several reasons. First of all, it is a matter of historical justice. Work written in English gets more attention than work written in other languages. Thus Labov got famous with his Martha’s vineyard work, whereas Louise Kaiser is hardly known outside The Netherlands, even though she expressed similar ideas to Labov’s as early as the thirties. The Netherlands and Belgium have produced brilliant linguistic researchers in several fields of linguistics, and linguistics seems to be a Dutch-Belgian speciality, perhaps even more so than astronomy. By writing in English, this is made clear. But more importantly, the research itself deserves to be more widely known. Recent years saw a growing interest in dialect research. Even generative grammar, influential as ever, has devoted an increasing amount of attention to the problem of how to describe simply and transparently minimal grammatical differences between closely related dialects. In etymological research, methods have been developed to localise and describe non-Indo-European substratum words; the empirical evidence often involves words surviving in the dialects but not in the standard language. The growing interest in dialect study seems to justify our current enterprise.


1.2. On the content and form of the articles

Each article corresponds to a province. It was a difficult decision to split up the Dutch dialect area in provinces. However, the problem with a linguistically motivated subdivision would have been twofold. There would anyhow have been discussion about a linguistic subdivision, because different linguistic arguments support different subdivisions. But more importantly, the reader would have to bear in mind the specific division which we made, whereas the division in provinces is independently given and will be familiar to all Dutch readers. Furthermore, institutes investigating regional culture are often partly paid for by the province. Hence we decided to let each the area covered by each article correspond to a province, rather than to the area defined by one or more isoglosses.

Each article has by and large the same division into sections and subsections. At the lowest level of subsections, there may be, and will be, differences between the articles. The reason for this is that the state of research is different for different provinces. For example, the syntax and morphology of the West Frisian dialect of Noord-Holland have been well investigated, whereas the syntax and morphology of the Utrecht dialects have been much less investigated. Thus the sub-subsections dealing with morphosyntax of West Frisian (in Noord-Holland) are more numerous and more extensive than the sub-subsections dealing with the morphosyntax of Utrecht dialects.

A second reason for differences between the three articles is to be found in the different backgrounds of the authors. The first article, almost completely written by Hoekstra, points at several issues that may enthusiasm the linguists among us. The last article, by Scholtmeijer, meets the dialectologist’s need for comparison, e.g. by providing a phoneme inventory. The second article combines the best of both worlds. We did not try to harmonise between the different disciplines, as both linguistics and dialectology are entitled to their own right of looking at language facts in the region under study.

However, wherever that was possible, we stuck to a tight protocol of article subdivision and subject matter. Below we provide a skeleton outline of the section subdivision of each article.


1.3. Skeleton outline of each article


1. Classification of the area

             1.1. Standard division

             1.2. Dialecthistorical introduction

             1.3. Dialectgeographical introduction

             1.4. Dialect studies

2. Phonology and phonetics

3. Morphology (by word category)

4. Syntax (by word category)

5. Lexicon

             5.1. Sources

             5.2. Word-geographical distribution

6. Sociolinguistics

             6.1. Sociological position of the dialect

             6.2. Dialect literature

7. Example of a dialect

             7.1. Text and comments

             7.2. Narrow translation in Standard Dutch

             7.3. Translation in English

8. Bibliography

             8.1. RND

             8.2. Books & Articles

             8.3. Other studies


1.4. Explication of the skeleton outline

Section 1 (Classification of the area) presents the linguistic rationale behind the standard division of a province into coherent dialect areas and relates the division to historical and geographical factors, as is commonly done in classical dialectology. The section concludes with a brief overview of the most important dialect studies. Section 2, 3 and 4 take as their subject matter the grammar of a well-described dialect of the province that is being investigated. It is impossible to give a neat outline of a grammar for a large dialect area or for a province, because there will be so much variation. Hence we select for each province a dialect that is part of it and that has been relatively well described. Section 2 deals with phonology and phonetics, section 3 with. Section 5 does the same with respect to the lexicon, especially insofar as the lexicon is relevant for issues that have been subjects of classical dialectal research. Section 6 discusses the sociological position of the dialect, and gives an overview of literary and other cultural activities within the dialect such as pop songs, theatre, cabaret, and so on. Section 7 presents a short dialect fragment that is used to point out some salient characteristics of the dialect in which it is written. Section 8 contains a bibliography with some comments to guide the reader who would like to know more.


1.5. Concluding remarks

We hope that the present work fulfils its dual purpose. On the one hand, it serves as an introduction for those who would like to know more about specific dialectological phenomena or about the dialectological situation in a specific province. On the other hand, it serves as an inventarisation of the research that has been done, and thus it also makes it clear how much work has not yet been done. In the latter sense, it functions as a research program for future dialectologists and linguists. The present work is restricted to the three western provinces of The Netherlands which together make up the Randstad. It is surprising that some much variation is encountered even in this urbanised area.





1. Classification of the area


1.1. Standard division

The archaic and more deviant features of the dialects of Noord-Holland typically occur in rural dialects. These features are regularly found in the dialects of Friesland and Groningen as well. The less deviant properties, which are shared by a much larger number of speakers, typically occur in the west of The Netherlands, that is, in Zuid-Holland, Noord-Holland and Utrecht. Those properties are typically found in the cities, especially in low class speech.

The province itself can be subdivided in a number of regions whose borders have been determined by a combination of geographical and political factors which were relevant in to the Middle Ages, but which are now irrelevant.

Zaanstreek, Waterland and the island Marken are found to the north of Amsterdam, in the south of the province. This area was separated from the Graafschap Holland by the IJ, a wide stretch of water.

In the north of the province is Westfriesland, the island of Texel and the former island Wieringen. Geographically, Westfriesland was separated from the Zaanstreek and Waterland by a series of lakes. It could be reached through the sandy area in the west of the province, Kennemerland, which was brought under the rule of the Graafschap as a bridgehead for the conquest of Westfriesland.

Kennemerland is a heterogeneous area, in which the dialects of fishing villages stand out as most archaic.

Originally, the dialects of Noord-Holland were presumably closely related. At least this is claimed to be true for the more differentiated and relatively well-investigated dialects of the Zaanstreek, Waterland and Westfriesland (Woudt 1984:45, Daan 1956:116 among others). Differentiation between these dialects can often be related to the extent to which they underwent the influence of the Graafschap Holland, and later of the Randstad, the industrialised and densely populated area in the west roughly corresponding to the old Graafschap Holland and containing the cities of Amsterdam, Leiden, The Hague and Rotterdam.


1.2. Dialecthistorical introduction

In the second half of the first millennium AD, the dialects of Noord-Holland seem to have been part of a northern continuum including also the provinces of Friesland and Groningen. The northern area was economically powerful in that age, as is evidenced by the finds of gold treasures and other attributes indicating the presence of kings and courts. The sea had not yet eaten away so much of the inhabitable land. The western part of the country was of less economic (and therefore linguistic) importance than it is today. Historical evidence indicates that the ‘Frisians’ mediated the trade between the Franks and the Baltic Sea area. What the historical sources call ‘Frisians’ is, from a modern point of view, more properly referred to as ‘people inhabiting the coast of the northern Netherlands’, corresponding roughly to the provinces of Noord-Holland, Fryslân and Groningen. The present-day rural dialects of the northern part of the province of Noord-Holland still exhibit many similarities with the dialects of Friesland and Groningen (Hoekstra 1993, 1994a, 1994b, 1998), presumably dating back to this time. In the second millennium AD the province's history is tied in closely with that of the expanding Graafschap Holland (the county of Holland). It annexed Waterland and the Zaanstreek, in the south of the province, and finally, in 1289, Westfriesland, in the north. These military facts reflect the growing economic (and linguistic) power of the Graafschap Holland. Linguistically, Noord-Holland will be more and more orientated on the language spoken in the Graafschap Holland. The new unity which the language varieties of Noord-Holland have thus received can much later be referred to as Standard Dutch. Most traces of the old Northern unity survive to our day as archaic features of rural dialects. Thus the first half of the second millennium witnessed the rise of a western sphere of linguistic influence, at the expense of the linguistic varieties of the north, of which modern Frisian is a tenacious remainder. Below we will of course concentrate on archaic or deviant linguistic features since (i) standard Dutch is extensively described elsewhere, and (ii) these archaic features are theoretically interesting since they can tell us something about microparametric variation and the theory of grammar.

Some characteristics of Noord-Holland speech can be highlighted from the Atlas van de Nederlandse Klankontwikkeling (ANKO) ‘atlas of Dutch sound changes’.

·         WGM /a/: ladder ‘ladder’. Along the coast from Zeeland to Friesland, ladder forms have been attested, though the later development in Frisian is different.

·         WGM short /u/: vogel ‘bird’. Noord-Holland has a ø, like Zeeland and West-Flanders still have.

·         WGM short /u/ with umlaut in brug ‘bridge’: along the coast from Flanders to Friesland we find unrounded vowels, as in England.

·         WGM long /a/ in schaap ‘sheep’ and laten ‘let’. Fronted to /e./ in Noord-Holland.

·         WGM long /a/ with umlaut: laag ‘low’. Fronted to /e./ in Noord-Holland. All words with WGM long /a/ have a palatal sound, irrespective of the presence of umlaut. Hence it is unclear whether umlaut operated or not.

·         WGM long /o/ with umlaut. The coastal dialects did not have umlaut on long vowels, including Noord-Holland. In Friesland, as in England, such vowels are completely fronted, instead of remaining centralised as in German and the eastern Dutch dialects.

·         WGM long /i/ gelijk ‘even’ was diphthongised in Noord-Holland to /ai/ or /oi/, but not on the island Texel, the (former) island Wieringen and the city Enkhuizen. The SD has /ei/. In Zandvoort and elsewhere this sound is monophthongised to /a./, presumably a recent development.

Conclusion: the old dialects of Noord-Holland still have ingwaeonic features which have been largely eliminated in Zuid-Holland due to heavy urbanization but which are historically traceable there (see also Heeroma 1935).



1.3. Dialectgeographical introduction


In the south the Noord-Holland area is dominated by Amsterdam, which, as it expanded, developed its own city dialect (Daan 1955, 1956, our source for the phonological and lexical facts presented in this section together with Weijnen 1966: 432-437). Syntactic quirks may occasionally be found in the speech of some Amsterdam speakers, such as the use of the complementiser of ‘whether’ before or after relative pronouns (Hoekstra 1994). In the previous century there seemed to be various Amsterdam subdialects, each associated with a particular neighbourhood.

To the Southeast of Amsterdam are the dialects of Het Gooi. These dialects do not exhibit the oldest typically coastal unroundings of rug ‘back’ (the noun) to /rex/ or /rix/, of put ‘well’ to /pet/ or /pit/. They also exhibit two north-eastern features, namely umlaut on WG /o:/ and palatalization in the participles of strong verbs. Some lexical isoglosses (e.g. nijt for niet ‘not’) separate these dialects from South and Noord-Holland, giving the dialect a more eastern flavor. This may well be related to the historical fact that Het Gooi belonged to the county Hamaland (until 968) and to the monastery Elten (until 1280), both of which are situated in the East of the Netherlands. Likewise the linguistic facts may also be related to the geographical fact that Het Gooi was separated from Noord- and Zuid-Holland by an inaccessible lake and bog area. Onomastic evidence suggests that the place-names in Het Gooi are of an older type than those around it.

Some speakers from the Zaanstreek and Waterland (including the island Marken) area still exhibit verb clusters like the following: hij moet staan blijven ‘he must stand stay’ ‘he must remain standing’, with the main verb staan to the left of the auxiliary blijven. The dialect of older speakers in the Zaanstreek, as written in Woudt (1984), exhibits this order systematically. This Zaan dialect can be distinguished from West Frisian in that Infinitivus-pro-Participio (henceforth IPP) is obligatory, whereas in West Frisian it is obligatorily absent in a large number of syntactic contexts. There are also word order differences with respect to the verbal cluster.

Volendam and the island Marken have each distinct dialects. There is an excellent comparative study of various aspects of the grammar of Waterland proper, Volendam and Marken (Van Ginneken 1954). The Waterland dialects exhibited the phenomenon of appending clitics to the words ja ‘yes’ and nee ‘no’. Thus (Volendam):



·         Ga je mee? Jo’k. / Najnek

             go you along yes-I / no-I

·                      Mag ik mee? Joje / Naje

             may I come-along yes-you no-you

·                      Gaat ze mee? Joze / Najze

             goes she along yes-she no-she

·                      Gaan we samen? Jodewe / Najnewe

             go we together? yes-?-we no-?-we

·                      Gaan ze mee Jodeze / Najneze

             go they along yes-?-they no-?-they


This phenomenon is found here and there across The Netherlands and Belgium, but also outside (see Paardekooper 1993 for a dialectgeographical study). Smessaert (1995) provides an in-depth investigation of this phenomenon in West Flemish.

The best-preserved dialects, or the dialects having the greatest distance from Standard Dutch, are doubtlessly those of Westfriesland. This is partly due to the absence of big cities in this area, and to the fact that is not so close to the Randstad. Some West Frisian dialects still preserve two infinitives, of which the distribution is syntactically determined. This is a typical feature of the Frisian dialects as well (Hoekstra 1994a).

Westfriesland has the most deviant dialect. Hence we have selected West Frisian as the focus of a detailed grammatical description in part II. This description is largely based on the excellent work of Pannekeet, especially 1979, 1995. We have supplemented this description with a typological comparison with Dutch and Frisian.

Along the west coast we find the remains of some conservative fisherman’s dialects (e.g. Egmonds). These conservative fisherman’s dialects have sometimes been called Strandhollands (Beach Dutch). Exclusively Beach Dutch is iet for niet ‘not’. Beach Dutch also shows extensive /h/-drop and unroundings like seen for zoon ‘son’, presumably via seun. Phonologically-historically the dialect shows many examples of unrounding as in zemer ‘summer’, Dutch zomer, Frisian simmer; kinst ‘art’, D. kunst, F. keunst, dinnetjes ‘thinly’, D. dunnetjes, F. tin, which do not seem to be present in West Frisian. Curious is the past tense of ‘say’: zaan, zâane; D. zei, zeiden; F. sei, seinen. Nasals have in certain positions been velarised, e.g. onger ‘under’ for D. onder, strangd ‘beach’ for D. strand. The verb zijn ‘be’ is conjugated with ebbe ‘have’.


1.4. Dialect studies


Literature about the Amsterdam dialect tends to be popularising. There is a collection of tapes with Amsterdam speech in the Meertens Institute, collected by D. Brouwer.

There is extensive research on the Zaan region, due to its economic vitality in the previous century, when it was successfully industrialised. Boekenoogen (1897) and Van Ginneken (1954) are excellent works containing a lot of material. Waterland consists of Waterland proper, Volendam and the island Marken. For Waterland, there is a book by J. van Ginneken (1954), based on material collected by his students and edited by A. Weijnen. This contains a lot of valuable material.

Attention should be drawn to Westfriesland’s Oud en Nieuw, a magazine containing valuable information about Westfriesland. Daan's (1950) dissertation contains a lot of factual information. Pannekeet’s (1995) grammar served as the basis for the description of West Frisian presented here. Pannekeet’s (1979) dissertation on derivational morphology of West Frisian was similarly detailed. This is quite rare in dialectology, where the focus is traditionally on phonology in its historical context and on aspects of lexicology, and remarks on syntax or morphology are absent or superficial. Westfriesland is without doubt the best-investigated area linguistically, due to the activities of Pannekeet.

There is a good historical description of the phonology of the dialect of Zandvoort (Van den Berg 1959).

Very little grammatical research has been done in other areas, with the exception of Beach Dutch, and thus it is a self-fulfilling prophecy that these areas are uninteresting dialectologically.



2. Phonetics and phonology



Unfortunately, a structuralist phonological description of West Frisian does not exist. Pannekeet (1995) offers a contrastive description of vowels and consonants in West Frisian and Dutch. Van den Berg (1959) offers a historical description of the Zandvoort coastal dialect. From these sources some information may be gleaned. Karsten (1931) and Boekenoogen (1897) likewise contain a historical description.


2.2. Vowels

In the short vowels, Zandvoorts, like many other dialects, preserves the distinction between /o/ and /ò/, which many Dutch speakers have lost. Unlike Dutch, it also has a half low central vowel, in for example /dOrd∂/ derde, ‘third’ and /sO‹s/ zes ‘six’. For /u/ and /y/, like in Dutch, there is no length opposition. A long half high central vowel or diphthong /œ.(∂)/ is not only found before /r/ as in Standard Dutch but can also be found before /l, g, x/.

Zandvoort has /o.∂/ before coronal, /O./ before non-coronals, that is, labials and gutturals. Dutch only has the diphthong before /r/. Many Noord-Holland dialects make this distinction. According to Van den Berg, a long vowel is found before /r/, a diphthong before the other coronals. We doubt whether this difference occurs. Anyhow, it is obviously not phonemically relevant.

In SD, the vowels /I:(∂)/ only occurs before /r/ in native words. Zandvoorts has it for /r,l,g,w/ and at the end of a word, e.g. /krI.∂n/ ‘clean’. Exactly here /e./ is excluded. The existing descriptions do not allow us to say more about the phonemic system.

/a/ may be raised to /e/, /e/ may be raised to /I/ before nasals as in ben/bin ‘am’, also in WF: denke/dinke ‘think’, hemde/himde ‘shirts’, hem/him ‘him’. The /I/ forms are also Frisian, the /e/ forms are Dutch. Hence we expect the /I/ forms to get lost.

The unaccented vowel may be pronounced like /I/ in WF at the end of a word, and before /s/, e.g. tante ‘aunt’, nergens ‘nowhere’, and like /i/ in WF smiddies /smIdis/ ‘in the afternoon’, cf. Dutch ‘s middags /smIdαxs/, Frisian middeis /mIdj∂s/.


2.3. Consonants

There are no word-initial voiced fricatives in Zandvoorts or WF, which are similarly absent in Frisian. This is typical of the original situation in Noord-Holland. Standard Dutch has word-initial /z/ and /v/. Hypercorrection under the influence of the SD yields an exciting amount of confusion here.

Dutch /sx/ is always /sk/ in WF, as in Frisian. Dutch has /sk/ in loanwords which may cause unetymological transpositions (see next section).

The /r/ is a rolling dental /r/ like in Frisian. A uvular pronunciation, as is not uncommon in Dutch, does not occur in WF or Zandvoorts.


2.4. Intonation

West Frisian sounds sing-song like to speakers of Standard Dutch, with its flat intonation and only a rise at the end of the sentence. This feature survives into regiolect. Individual words seem to be pronounced longer. This latter observation may suggest that there are more diphthongs where Dutch has long monophthongs (as is the case in Frisian), in harmony with historical descriptions reporting diphthongs where Dutch has monophthongs. Here we again point out for future research the task of creating an exact phoneme inventory of West Frisian and a phonetic description, or any other Noord-Holland dialect.


2.5. Frisian substrate in the dialects of Noord-Holland.

Here we will discuss whether there is still a Frisian substrate in the dialects of Noord-Holland, or, in our case, in the West Frisian dialect.


2.5.1. Less fronted vowels in West Frisian and Frisian as compared to Dutch

In a number of cases WF and F have vowels which are less fronted than in Dutch, often involving WF, F /o/, /ö/ versus Dutch /I/:



West Frisian

                          F             D                                              

ommers              ommers             immers

slokke                slokke             slikke

sund                   sûnt             sinds

guster                 juster             gister

wulle                  wolle             willen

mosk                  mosk             mus (a mid vowel)


                          (t)sjirmje             kerme



                          F             D                                             

ommers              ommers             immers

slokke                slokke             slikke

sûnt                    sûnt             sinds

juster                  juster             gister

wolle                  wolle             willen

mosk                  mosk             mus (a mid vowel)











mus (a mid vowel)



for (conjunction)







2.5.2. Palatalisation of /k/

West Frisian

                          F             D                                          

serme                 mosk             mus (a m                               


                          F             D                                      

(t)sjirmje                                                      mosk             mus (a mid vowel)









The example of serme seems to have partaken of the Frisian development of k > tsj. In Frisian this is also found in tsjerke ‘church’, which is not found in WF. There is also onomastic evidence for the effect of this sound-change. In Zandvoort we find sjompe ‘cry, make faces, make a sad face’, Vlaardingen (Zuid-Holland) sjimpe, WF timpen, Frisian sjimperje, sjamperich and simperich as adjectives. In this meaning it is also found in English dialects. Its etymology is obscure.


2.5.3. -ft/-Xt alternation

Obsolete is -ft /ft/ for -cht /xt/ in words like after/efter, afterdocht, kraft, saft, graft, and some others, in accordance with Frisian efter, krêft, sêft, grêft. The f-forms are also preserved in place-names in Noord-Holland, also found in Zuid-Holland, Utrecht, and in the German and English standard language.


2.5.4. Loss of -f-

Some words show loss of /f/ before /s/, a development shared with Frisian in the same words:


West Frisian

                          F             D                                                  (t)sjirmje             kerme





                          F             D

hjerst /jEst/

leafst /ljEst/














Interestingly, WF also inserts schwa where Frisian does not, as in zelles cf. F. sels ‘self, even’. Thus, loss of /f/ must have been a mutual development whereas schwa-insertion is typical of the whole of Noord-Holland. Mutual WF & F developments in the same lexical subset of words can perhaps be dated back to the time when the area was still a unity, so (very roughly) before the year 1000.



3. Morphology


This section deals with derivational morphology, that is, all morphology that is not contextually determined. Here we will present some interesting phenomena from the derivational morphology of West Frisian. The West Frisian data have mainly been taken from Pannekeet’s (1979) dissertation on word formation.


3.1. Binding morphemes


Binding morphemes are elements which are appended to the first element of a compound, such as the schwa in boek - boekeclub ‘book club’. In some cases, first elements of compounds are not marked at all, as in English book club. Sometimes first elements of compounds undergo a different change, such as vowel change, as in Frisian stien - stienslach, /sti.∂n/ - /stjinslax/, ‘stone - stone chipping’ (Hoekstra 1995). Below we will pay attention to binding morphemes in West Frisian.


3.1.1 -ERS-

Some compounds have -ERS as a binding phoneme. In some cases, this can clearly be related to the plural of the action noun, but in others it cannot (for an analysis, see J. Hoekstra 1987). In some cases there are Frisian (and Dutch) parallels:


West Frisian











teugenopzienderswerk pankoekerspan





























cloth-washing day

milking time

haying weather

clean clothes

time to get up

time to get up early

cardplaying round

handwashing bowl

going out weather

work one dislikes

pancake pan



Neither verskoônder nor opper exist as independent words. Op is a particle meaning here ‘out of bed’, and verskoône exists as a verb. This indicates that -ERS/-DERS is a pure binding morpheme in the last two examples, and, by generalisation in the first three examples as well. This becomes also clear from a comparison with Dutch, where this binding morpheme is absent. -ERS is present though as a binding morpheme in Frisian, sometimes in the same compounds as in West Frisian. Interestingly, -ER occurs as a binding morpheme in Northfrisian, as shown in Århammar (1993).


3.1.2. -E-

Schwa is a common binding morpheme in Frisian, Dutch and West Frisian. It occurs in a number of words, though, where it occurs neither in Dutch nor in Frisian:



West Frisian





















Literal translation



child car

nail scissors

pipe cinnamon

bird scarer





nail scissors

cinnamon stick




In some of these examples, like veugeleverskrikker and nageleskeertje, the first element has a plural in -S in Dutch. The plural veugels occurs in West Frisian. If the plural is exclusively in -S, like in Dutch and Frisian, then the occurrence of -E as a binding morpheme violates a generalisation which holds without exception for Dutch. This generalisation says that schwa can only occur as a binding morpheme in words which have a plural in schwa (see Mattens 1970:189, Van Marle 1985:19, Booij & Van Santen 1995:119). It is a question for future research to investigate whether the plural veugelen is really absent in West Frisian.


3.2. Sample of diminutives: after short vowel + {L/R/N} in West Frisian and Wierings

The form of the diminutive ending in Dutch is sensitive to properties of the syllable which it appends to. The vowel is relevant in bal:baal - balletje:baaltje (‘ball:bag’). The final consonant cluster is relevant in man:mannetje - mand:mandje (‘man:basket’). Consider now the case of a short vowel followed by a nasal or a liquid. In that context, Dutch has an extra syllable based on the schwa, -etje /∂tj∂/, whereas Frisian and West Frisian keep a monosyllabic diminutive:


West Frisian





WF of Wieringen















Base, translation


wal ‘wall’

tor ‘beetle’

zon ‘sun’


The dialect of Opperdoes closely resembles the dialect of Wieringen in its more extensive use of -KE in forming diminutives. We will not further present similarities and differences in this field, which must still be further explored. The table in so far as it presents contrasting dialects of West Frisian illustrates the richness of the variation existing within non-standardized language varieties.



3.3. Diminutive noun formation from adjectives

West Frisian exhibits diminutive noun formation from adjectival bases, which is normally ungrammatical in both Frisian and Dutch:



West Frisian


een duntje

een peersie

een sloumpie



* in tintsje

* in pearske

* in sleauke



* een dunnetje

* een paarsje

* een sloompje

Base, translation


dun ‘thin’

paars ‘purple

sloom ‘slow’



Interestingly, the suffix -IE also occurs in western Dutch city dialects of low sociological status. In those dialects, some forms with -IE from adjectives have been lexicalised, such as sloompie. Sometimes, City Dutch -IE formations have no parallel in Standard Dutch, such as WD schoffie (SD * schofje); in this case, there doesn’t exist a ground word *schof, neither in WD nor in SD. (There is, however, a ground word schoft in SD. In WD t is often deleted after f, X: hofie (head), grachie (canal).)


3.4.-SE for verb formation

This suffix is occasionally used for verb formation. In a significant number of cases, the suffix attaches to a diminutive noun, or to a noun which ends in a vowel homophonous with the diminutive ending:


West Frisian





Dutch translation


per berrie vervoeren

paardje spelen

voortdurend afpoepen

English translation


move by barrow

play horsie

fart continually


These forms tend to be mostly used as infinitives, and they share a specific aspectual durativity. Occasionally a participle is found:


Benne jullie nag niet uitkoppiest

are you still yet not out-cup-ed

‘Haven’t you finished drinking coffee/tea?’


3.5. Nominal purals

Obsolete West Frisian has a number of S- and SE-plurals lacking in Dutch or Frisian.
























cousins, nephews

cousins, nieces




Many of these denote persons or family. There is an interesting historical dimension to plurals. Philippa (1987) drew attention to the fact that Old Frisian does not have S-plurals. Paardekooper (1990) showed that West and French Flemish have quite a large number of S-plurals typically in relict words. Note that the plural ending spelled -EN in Dutch is pronounced without the -N in both West Frisian and Dutch, so /∂/. In Frisian, on the other hand, the plural is a syllabic -N, like in the Saxon dialects.


3.6. -IG/-ERIG/-DERIG and suffixes employing -IG/-ERIG as a base

This suffix is can attach to a large number of bases to which it could not possibly attach in Dutch. In Frisian this suffix is also more productive than in Dutch, though not so productive as in West Frisian.


West Frisian










Frisian -ICH

































willing to go out

bad weather like



typical of city of V.

with (too many) small rooms

liking to rise early


In some cases West Frisian corresponds to Dutch -ACHTIG or Frisian -EFTICH, but we will leave the attempt to describe these facts as a subject for future research.

The suffix -HOID, which yields nouns, can often (presumably always) attach to a form ending in -IG. This yields forms like the following:


West Frisian














willingness to go out




3.7. The prefix ONT-

This prefix is rarer in West Frisian words than in Dutch words. It is especially rare in its inchoative meaning:


West Frisian


beginne te brande


uit mekaar ploffe


vange, kroige










begin to burn / catch fire

fly away from


advise against



The prefix ONT is absent here. In this respect, West Frisian patterns with Frisian, and also with English. One would like to see a typological comparison of the various semantic uses of ONT- in various West-Germanic dialects. Many forms in ÛNT- in the Dutch-Frisian dictionary are absent in the speech of Frisian speakers unless they were schooled in Standard Frisian (which is a small minority).


3.8. Word accent

Compounds denoting a concrete object in and around the house often exhibit final accent instead of initial accent as is common in Dutch. Accent is indicated by underlining the accented syllable:


West Frisian

















cellar stairs

room doar

room cupboard


Interestingly, this group of compounds also has final accent in Frisian, and is subject to the same semantic constraint (see J. Hoekstra 1998:52-55). In the Frisian cases, the coumpound, under certain conditions, must have a binding morpheme -S- as well. Interestingly, Frisian has minimal pairs like keamerdoar and keamersdoar ‘room door’. The latter one must be concrete and specific, it must be the door of this room. Consider the following sentences:


a. * Ik ha 100 keamersdoarren besteld

I have 100 room doors ordered

 ‘I ordered 100 room doors’

b. Ik ha 100 keamerdoarren besteld


The binding morpheme -s- must be absent for the sentence to be grammatical. It might be interesting to investigate this matter more deeply in West Frisian as well.

Final accent also occurs in a number of other cases, like for example compounds with the element -DAGS ‘day’, as in winterdags ‘in winter’, zeumerdags ‘in summer’, herrestdags ‘in autumn’, and in a large number of placenames, especially those ending in -broek, -brug/-breg, -dam, -doik/-dik, -(h)orre (-horn), -(h)uize, -(h)out, -karspel, -meer, -leik, -waard, -wou(d). Family names, even if they are derived from placenames, have initial accent. Thus we get: Han Akersloôt from Akersloôt, Jaap Langedoik from (De) Langedoik, Antje Oôswoud from Oôswoud, and so on.


3.9. Other (non West Frisian) aspects of morphology


Some speakers of the city dialect of Amsterdam called Jordaans allow the complementiser of ‘whether/if’ to precede Wh-elements and relativisers, as in the following examples (Hoekstra 1994d):


a. De vrouw of die ik gezien heb

the woman of that I seen have

‘the woman that I saw’

b. Het kind of dat ik gezien heb

the child of that I seen have

‘the child that I saw’

c. De auto of waar ik in reed

the car of where I in drove

‘the car which I drove in’

d. Dit doet bij mij de vraag rijzen of wie er op het instituut werken of niet

this does to me the question come-up of who there at the institute work or not

‘this raises for me the question of who is working at the institute and who is not’

e. We moeten eens vragen of waar die heengaat

we must MP ask of where that to-goes

‘perhaps we should ask where it is going to’


MP stands for ‘modal particle’in the glosses.



3.10. Changes in the suffix: ousting northern forms, importing western forms


West Frisian                                            Frisian                                     Dutch

-skip, -skap                                              -skip                                       -schap  ‘company’


The suffix is used in words like: F, WF selskip ‘company’, Dutch gezelschap. The form -skip, the form that is closer to Frisian (identical in this case), is becoming obsolete through competition with the form -skap, which is closer to Dutch. This picture is encountered more often. The forms that are more similar to Frisian are ousted by competing forms that are more similar to Dutch.

 A similar type of example is obsolete WF noflek ‘comfortable, cosy’, F noflik. Now the form genoeglijk is heard, identical to Dutch. Similarly:

Obsolete WF snobbe, F snobje, Dutch & Modern WF snoepe.

Obsolete WF frommes, F frommes, Dutch and Modern WF vrouwen.

Obsolete WF glik, F gelyk /glik/, Dutch /gelεik/ MWF /geloik/.

Obsolete WF rik, F ryk /rik/, Dutch and MWF /rεik/.

Some of the Frisian forms generally occur in the north-eastern part of The Netherlands.



3.11. The Verb


3.11.1 The paradigm


Alternatively, present and past tense forms are given, and finally the past participle (PP):


             trappe                                                                                       komme

             (weak verb)                                                                              (strong verb)

1Sg       trap                                                                                          kom

1Sg       trapte                                                                                        kwam

2Sg       trappe                                                                                       komme

2Sg       trapte                                                                                        kwamme

3Sg       trapt                                                                                         komt

3Sg       trapte                                                                                        kwam

123Pl    trappe                                                                                       komme

123Pl    trapte                                                                                        kwamme

PP        trapt                                                                                         kommen


3.11.2. 2SG without schwa

In inversion, the schwa in the 2SG is nearly always dropped by older and younger people. In a written text, schwa-drop took place in inversion in 97% of all potential cases

In subject-initial sentences, older people use the form with schwa. Younger people use the form without schwa. Note that both younger and older speakers deviate from Dutch, which has a form in -T here.

In the past tense of strong verbs, the tendency to drop the schwa is possibly stronger.

In the past tense of weak verbs, the schwa is never dropped. In other persons, this type of schwa-drop is not found. See, however,  the section on profixed pronouns.


3.11.3. Generalisation of 2P to 2S

WF, like Dutch, exhibits the generalisation of the 2P to the 2S, ousting the original West Germanic form in -ST which is still present in Frisian, Groningen, Dutch and German. The -T ending in the 2SG in Dutch reflects the former -T ending in 2P, still present in southern Dutch dialects.


3.11.4. Past tense plural

WF and Dutch have past tense plural in -E, where Frisian has past tense plural in -EN, normally pronounced as a syllabic nasal. Possible remains of a former agreement /n/ show up in the linking /n/ after schwa before a vowel, which is found in WF and many other dialects:

 Wat hoorde-n-ik?

 what heard-I

 ‘What did I hear?’

Frisian lacks this linking /n/, possibly because /n/ still functions as a marker of past tense.


3.11.5 To BE

The paradigm




Infinitive ‘be’


1S present - past






West Frisian


weze, weize


bin – waar, was

binne - ware, wazze

is – waar, was

binne - ware, wazze


weest, weist





bin - wie

binst - wiest

is - wie

binne - wienen







ben - was

bent - was

is - was

zijn - waren




The Dutch infinitive zijn is absent in WF and F. The Dutch 123P zijn is absent in WF and F. With all Dutch verbs, the infinitive is homophonous to the present tense plural, unlike Frisian and West Frisian.


3.11.6 The WF 123P ‘binne’.

The WF word binne is also Frisian. This form is found in Noord and Zuid-Holland dialect and substandard speech. B-forms are also found in the province of Zealand. The form zijn has clearly been introduced in this area through the standard language. It is found in the dialects of Brabant and Limburg.


3.12. The Adjective


3.12.1. Inflection of the nominalized adjective

Nominally used adjectives do often not inflect, as in the following examples:


West Frisian


’n aar

’n nuw




in oaren ien

in nijen ien




een andere

een nieuwe




a new one

an other (one)

In Dutch, the nominalized adjective gets marked with /∂/. In Frisian, the adjective gets marked with a  (syllabic) /n/; the pronoun ien is optionally present. In English, the pronominal form ‘one’ is obligatory. In Dutch to use that pronoun would even be ungrammatical: * een grote een (‘a big one’).


3.12.2. Comparative

Comparatives can also be nominalized in West Frisian, like in Dutch, but again WF lacks an inflectional ending.


West Frisian


’n grôter



in grutteren ien




een grotere




a bigger one


3.13. Adverbs


3.13.1. Comparative from diminutive adverbs and adjectives

Dutch features diminutive adverbs in -s, such as zachtjes ‘softly’, netjes ‘decent(ly)’, stilletjes ‘silent(ly)’. Interestingly, WF features comparatives based on these forms:


WF       sachieser prate                            netjeser skroive

             ‘talk more softly’                         ‘write more decently’


This would be ungrammatical in both Dutch and Frisian.


3.13.2 Adverbs of subjective degree

West Frisian is rich, even creative, in words expressing the concept corresponding to ‘a great lot of’ or ‘very’.


WF       Het is barrebaars / krimineêl / merakel / skoftig mooi

             it is barbarian / criminally / miraculously / bastard-like beautiful


The same applies to spoken Frisian. In Dutch, adverbs of degree are rarer in the standard language.



4. Morphosyntax and syntax


This section deals with syntax, that is, with inflection (contextually determined flection, or inflectional morphology) and word order phenomena.


4.1. The WF infinitive ‘weze’.

This form marginally occurs in Dutch. Where it is optionally possible it is very slightly substandard, as in the following sentence:


Zou hij ziek zijn / wezen?

Should he ill be

‘Do you think he is ill’


In a subset of syntactic configurations wezen is obligatory in Dutch, e.g. in the following:


a. Hij is wezen vissen

he is be fish

‘He has gone out to fish’

b. * Hij is zijn vissen

he is be fish

‘He has gone out to fish’


On this construction, see De Schutter (1974), De Groot (1995).


Wezen is also obligatory in certain infinitives with imperative force:


a. Weg wezen!    

 away be

 ‘Go away’

b. * Weg zijn!

 away be

‘Go away’


But not in others (see Hoeksema (1992)):


a. Stil wezen

 silent be

‘Be silent!’

b. Stil zijn!

 silent be

‘Be silent’


4.2. The perfect participle

The perfect participle in WF and F lacks the prefix GE-, present in Dutch and German. When used as an adjective, GE- may occur but this is not a rule. Thus we find both:


troude kindere                                         getroude kinderen

married children                                       married children


However, it seems that if the negative prefix ON- precedes, GE- is always present. In the examples below, we present some minimal pairs contrasting the adjectival forms with ON- with the perfect participial forms. The minimal pairs have been underlined:


             Adjective                                    Perfect Participle

a.          ze binne ongeslagen                     ze werde temet doôd sloegen

             they are undefeated’                  ‘they were nearly dead hit’

b.          hai kwam ongevraagd binnen       hai het niks vroegen

             they came unasked inside’          ‘he has nothing asked’

c.          je komme ongelegen                    hai het tebed loid

             you come un-lain’                      ‘he has on bed laid’

             ‘You come at the wrong time’     ‘He has laid on the bed’

d.          ongewassen                                wossen

             un-washed ‘rough’                      ‘washed’


In the adjectival cases, the verb does not have the West Frisian vowel but the Dutch vowel. This fact suggests that all these forms in ON- are loans from Dutch. This correlates with the fact that ON-formations are rare in the dialect compared to Standard Dutch. The same is true for Frisian. In fact, in the spoken dialect, like in Frisian (cf. De Haan & Hoekstra 1992) and English, the perfect participle is much less used as an adjective (if so then mostly in set phrases without premodification of the participle), while this is very common in written Dutch and German. Instead, such a construction is avoided in West Frisian:


 * pelde bolle                               * gepelde bolle                         bolle die peld binne

             peeled bulbs’                             ‘peeled bulbs’                          ‘bulbs which are peeled’


Possibly, this relates to the presence of the prefix. To test this hypothesis, one would have to investigate adjectival use of the perfect participle in a dialect with GE-.

The prefix GE- is absent not only in Westfriesland, but also in the northern provinces. See Hol (1937) on the geographical distribution. The Zaan, as well as Zuid-Holland, used to have the prefix E-; this prefix typically shows up in between the GE- area and the prefixless area. Changes in the choice of prefix in Noord and Zuid-Holland are documented in Brok (1995).


4.3. Use of two infinitival endings

There are two infinitival endings in West Frisian, -e and -en. Dutch only has one infinitival ending, written -en and pronounced /∂/. Frisian, however, also has two infinitival endings -e and -en. Moreover, the distribution of the endings is determined by the governing verb in both West Frisian and Frisian. The infinitive in -en is also referred to as the gerund. The following facts indicate that the same verbs govern the same type of infinitival ending in West Frisian and Frisian (Hoekstra 1994a,b). The (a)-examples below are West Frisian, the (b)-examples are from Frisian. They go to show that the choice of infinitival ending is very similar in the two language varieties:


Modal verbs select the infinitive in -e:

WF       Vader sil deer veur zurregE.

F           Heit sil der foar soargjE.

             dad will that foar take-care-of

             ‘Father will take care of that’


Verbs of perception select the infinitive in -en:

WF       Je hore enkeld de klok tikkEN.

F           Jo hearre inkeld de klok tikjEN.

             you hear only the clock tick

             ‘You only hear the clock tick.’


Causative verb let selects the infinitive in -e:

WF       Ik heb m’n heer knippE leiten.

F           Ik ha myn hier knippE litten.

             I have my hair cut let

             ‘I have let my hair cut.’


Do as auxiliary verb with preposed infinitive selects -e:

WF       DonderE deed ’t niet.

F           TongerjE die it net.

             thunder it did not

             ‘Thunder, it did not.’


To selects the infinitive in -en:

WF       Ik gaan te melkEN.

F           Ik gean te melkEN.

             I go to milk

             ‘I go and milk.’


Nominalisation preceded by determiner is based on -en:

WF       Bai it vallen.

F           By it fallEN.

       with the falling

             ‘While falling’


Hebben ‘have’ with infinitival verb of position takes -en:

WF       Die d’r hele kapitaal in d’r twei hande zittEN hewwe.

F           Dy’t har hiele kaptaal yn har twa hannen sittEN hawwe.            

             who their whole capital in their two hands sit have

             ‘Who have all their capital in their two hands.’


If go takes a verb of position (sit, lie, stand or hang), then it selects -en:

WF       Gaan zittEN, zoide Aris.

F           Gean sittEN, sei Aris.

             go sit, said Aris

             ‘Have a seat, said Aris.’


If stay takes a verb of position (sit, lie, stand or hang), then it selects -en

WF       Bloif mar zittEN.

F           Bliuw mar sittEN.

             stay MP sit

             ‘Stay sitting.’ (‘Don’t stand up.’)


It is a typical property of the Frisian language group that there are two infinitival endings whose distribution is syntactically determined by the governing verb. Thus this phenomenon can also be found in East Frisian and North Frisian (see J. Hoekstra 1992), both of which are spoken in Germany.


4.4. The IPP-effect and word order in the verbal cluster

Dutch features the Infinitivus-pro-Participio effect. If a verb which is selected by have itself selects another verb then it does not show up as a participle but as an infinitive:


a.          Hij heeft dat gewild / * willen

             he has that wanted / want

b.          Hij heeft dat willen / * gewild doen

             he has that want / wanted do

             ‘he has wanted to do that’ 


This phenomenon also shows up in German. It is subject to a lot of variation. Dialects differ in the extent to which they have the IPP-effect. Dialects also differ with respect to the order of verbs in the verbal cluster. The IPP-effect is absent in English, Danish, and Frisian. Thus it seems to be restricted to a large subset of Westgermanic dialects.

As said, it is absent in Frisian, present in Dutch. West Frisian is geographically in between the two. It turns out that it is also in between with respect to IPP. It is not absent, as in Frisian, but it is present to a much smaller degree than in Dutch. It turns out that the IPP-effect is sensitive to the semantic class of the verb exhibiting it. Incidentally, this generally holds of variation with respect to IPP and word order in the verbal cluster. The absence of IPP in West-Frisian is clear from the presence of past participles ending in -t, -d or –n, whereas the infinitive ends in –e. Let us now turn now to an overview of the West Frisian data (from Hoekstra & Taanman 1996), where we give the highest verb in the syntactic tree a ‘1’, the next highest verb a ‘2’, and so on:


Modals do not exhibit IPP, and participate in the order 321 in West Frisian and Frisian:

WF       Die ze veul gelukkiger zien wullen had.                                       order 321

             that she much happier see (3) want-PfP (2) had (1)

F           Dy’t se folle lokkiger sjen wollen hie.                                          order 321

             that she much happier see want-PfP had

D          Die ze veel gelukkiger had willen zien.                                        order 123

             that she much happier had want-InF see

             ‘Who had wanted to see them much happier.’


Causative let does not exhibit IPP, and is ordered 321:

WF       Datte ze d’r gaan leiten hadde.                                                   order 321

             that-PL they her go let-PfP had

F           Dat se har gean litten hiene.                                                       order 321

             that they her go let-PfP had

D          Dat ze haar hadden laten gaan.                                                  order 123

             that they her had let-InF go

             ‘That they had let her go.’


Perception verbs exhibit IPP, and have the order 123:

WF       Tot ie d’r had zien weggaan.                                                      order 123

             until he her had see-InF go-away

F           Oant er har fuortgean sjoen hie.                                                 order 321

             until he her go-away see-PfP had

D          Tot hij haar had zien weggaan.                                                   order 123

             until he her had seen-InF go-away

             ‘Until he had seen her go away.’


Aspectual verbs generally exhibit IPP, and have the order 12te3:

WF       Ik hew temet ’n uur in die kouwe skuur zitte te bolle pellen.         order 12te3

             I have nearly an hour in that cold barn sit to bulbs peel

F           Ik ha hast in oere yn dy kâlde skuorre sitten te bollepellen.           order 12te3

             I have nearly an hour in that cold barn sit to bulbs peel

D          Ik heb haast een uur in die koude schuur zitten bollen te pellen.    order 12te3

             I have nearly an hour in that cold barn sit bulbs to peel

             ‘I have been peeling bulbs for nearly an hour in that cold barn.’


The presence of IPP in the last example is clear from the infinitive zitte, which also shows that the IPP-infinitive ends in –e, not in -en; the form of the past participle is zeten (Pannekeet 1995:389).


From this succinct overview it becomes clear that West Frisian linguistically occupies a middle position between Dutch and Frisian. The data are, in fact, more complex, as is clear from Pannekeet (1995:385-392).


4.5. Use of to-infinitive

The use of to-infinitives in West Frisian is different from that in Dutch. The general picture is that TE is used much more in Frisian and West Frisian than in Dutch. It is, in fact, very similar to the use of to-infinitives in the northern provinces of Friesland and Groningen. Again, I choose Frisian as a standard of comparison, because more research has been done on Frisian than on the Groningen dialect. The to-infinitive, when selected by be or go, is used to denote absence of the subject from the place that is the topic of the discourse, usually the place of speaking (see De Groot 1995 for a discussion of this construction in Dutch).


WF       Hij is te vissen.

             he is to fish

F           Hy is te fiskjen.

             he is to fish

D          Hij is vissen.

             he is fish

             ‘He went away to fish.’


A to-infinitive can freely combine with various auxiliaries, as shown below.


Combination of a to-infinitive with auxiliary stay:

WF       Hij blijft te slapen.

             he stays to sleep

F           Hy bliuwt te sliepen.

             he stays to sleep

D          Hij blijft slapen.

             he stays sleep

             ‘He stays sleeping.’



Combination of a to-infinitive with modal auxiliaries:

WF       We zelle / moete / wulle te kaarten.

             we shall / must / want to play-cards 

F           We sille / moatte / wolle te kaarten.

             we shall / must / want to play-cards

D          We gaan / moeten / willen kaarten.

             we go / must / want play-cards

             ‘We shall / must / want to play cards.’


This construction has the same semantics as the to-infinitive in the presence of be or go (absentive interpretation). Indeed, be or go may be added:


WF       We zelle / moete / wulle te kaarten gaan.

             we shall / must / want to play-cards go

F           We sille / moatte / wolle te kaarten gean.

             we shall / must / want to play-cards go

D          We gaan / moeten / willen kaarten.

             we go / must / want play-cards

             ‘We shall / must / want to play cards.’



Combination of a to-infinitive with aspectual verbs of position:

WF       Ik hem hem staan leiten te wachten.

             I have him stand let-PfP to wait

F           Ik ha him stean litten te wachtsjen.

             I have him stand let-PfP to wait

D          Ik heb hem laten staan wachten.

             I have him let stand-InF wait

             ‘I have let him stand and wait.’


This is only a small sample of the available data, cf. Pannekeet (1995:409-435).


4.6. Noun-incorporation and particle-incorporation

Nouns may incorporate into to-infinitives, as shown in the following examples:


WF       Hai het in de polder loupen te aaiere zoeken.

             he has in the polder walked to egg search

F           Hy hat yn ‘e polder rûn te aaisykjen.

             he has in the polder walked to egg search

D          Hij heeft in de polder eieren lopen zoeken.

             he has in the polder eggs walk search

             ‘He has been looking for eggs in the polder.’


This phenomenon is also found in Groningen (see Schuurman 1987). Particles may also incorporate, that is, they occur sandwiched in between TE and the verb, which is ungrammatical in Standard Dutch:


WF       Ze mocht op het altaar staan te voorlezen.

             she was-allowed on the altar stand to PTC-read

F           Hja mocht op it alter stean te foarlêzen.

             she was-allowed on the altar stand to PTC-read

D          Ze mocht op het altaar staan om voor te lezen.

             she was-allowed on the altar stand ComP PtC to read

             ‘She was allowed to read from the altar.’


4.7. Constructions with DO.

Doen ‘so’ is used as an auxiliary in West Frisian, sometimes practically without semantic contribution, as in the following sentence:


WF       We doene deimie wel omwasse.

             we do in-a-moment MP wash

             ‘We’ll wash in a moment.’


This is ungrammatical in Dutch and Frisian. Grammatical in all three varieties is the use of do as auxiliary when the infinitive is preposed as in:


WF       Omwasse doene we deimie wel.

             wash do we in-a-moment MP

F           Ofwaskje dogge we aansen wol.

             wash do we in-a-moment MP

D          Afwassen doen we zometeen wel.

             wash do we in-a-moment MP

             ‘We’ll wash in a moment.’


Common to the dialects of the three northern provinces but not to Dutch is the use of do as a verb denoting high degree:


WF       D’r werd oftig danst en dein.

             there was often danced and done

F           Der waard faak dûnse en dien.

             there was often danced and done

D          Er werd vaak gedanst.

             there was often danced

             ‘They danced a lot.’


4.8. The complementiser

West Frisian frequently exhibits the presence of a ‘superfluous’ complementiser when compared to Standard Dutch:


a.          Veul eerder as dat we zelf docht hadde.

             much earlier than that we ourselves thought

             ‘Much earlier than we had thought ourselves.’

b.          Weet jij hoe dat ie hiet en weer dat ie weunt?

             Know you how that he is-called and where that he lives

             ‘Do you know how he is called en where he lives?’

c.          Nou datte die lui roik binne hewwe ze puur kapsones

             now that-PL those people rich are have they a-lot-of

             ‘Now that those people are rich, they rather put on airs.’

d.          Toe datte we thuiskwamme, lagge de are al te bed

             when that-PL we home came lay the others already in bed

             ‘When we came home, the others were already lying in their beds.’


Complementiser doubling is found in other dialects as well. The complementiser agreement ending may be appended to various complementisers and bare Wh-items like as (asse / azze) ‘if’, of (offe / ovve) ‘whether’, toe(n) (toene) ‘when’, tot (totte) ‘until’, wat (watte) ‘what’, weer (weere) ‘where’, deer (deere) ‘where’.

The last two examples also illustrate the phenomenon of complementiser agreement. Complementiser agreement is found in West Frisian in the 2SG and in the plural, i.e. in those cases in which the verbal agreement is in schwa. It is unclear why this type of complementiser agreement is optional. It has been suggested that the phonological realization of complementiser agreement is sensitive to the rhythmic properties of the following constituent (Goeman 1979, Hoekstra & Smits 1996): its realization is promoted by a following unstressed pronoun, whereas it is discouraged by a non-pronominal NP beginning with a stressed syllable.


4.9. A phonotactic remark on prepositions

The prepositions in West Frisian are more similar to those of Frisian (or rather the northern provinces) than to those of Dutch. The similarities are lexical and semantic, but we will not reproduce them here (see Pannekeet (1995:323-346). A phonotactic fact is that the determiner de often loses its consonant in combination with a preposition, just as in Frisian: inne (in de) ‘in the’, oppe (op de) ‘on the’, and so on. In Dutch, the consonant is not deleted; rather, if voiced, it triggers voicing of the preceding voiceless consonant of the preposition (if any). Thus: op de /obd∂/.



5. Lexicon


5.1. Sources

There is no extensive dictionary of any dialect or dialects in Noord-Holland. The following dictionaries rather have the character of word lists that are not very rich in examples of phrases and idioms:


West Frisian: Karsten (1931), Pannekeet (1984)

Zaanstreek: Boekenoogen (1897), Woudt (1984)

Egmond aan Zee: Eeltink (1993)

Enkhuizen: Spoelstra (1981)


5.2. Word geographical distribution

The issue of a Frisian substrate played an important part in word-geographical research. Heeroma (1935) made a case against such a Frisian substrate, arguing that Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland formed an old unified linguistic area. Karsten (1931), on the other hand, notes that West-Friesland and central Frisia frequently form one area with respect to word-geography (see also J. de Vries 1909, Nawijn 1928, Weijnen 1984 and the sources mentioned above). Some similarities between central Frisia and West-Friesland are given below (cf. Karsten 1931: 196-201):







op honk sitte






te honk wêze


chicken farmer

be very busy or excited

walk irregularly

berry of eldertree, rowantree or hawthorn

be at home


 It should be kept in mind that occurrence of a word in the WNT (Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal, ‘Dictionary of the Dutch Language’) does not imply that that word is exclusively Dutch, and not Frisian. Words involving Frisian substrate may have entered the WNT through the dialects of Groningen and Noord-Holland.

For more information on word-geography and the dialects of Noord-Holland, see the Taalatlas van Noord- en Zuid-Nederland (TNZN, ‘Linguistic Atlas of the Northern and Southern Low Countries’) and Daan (1956).


6. Sociolinguistics


6.1. Sociological position of the dialect

The Amsterdam dialect, like most city dialects, is strongly associated with low class. This leads to the usual continuum. Many speakers from Amsterdam can vary the register in which they talk, or, put differently, their position on the linguistic continuum between Standard Dutch and the Amsterdam city dialect. The city dialect is slowly acquiring some prestige through use on local radio and television.

The dialects of the Zaanstreek and of Waterland are generally claimed to have disappeared by now. Nevertheless, traces of the original dialect can still be found in the spoken language, for example, in the form of deviant orders in the verbal cluster.

The distinctness of the West Frisian dialect as compared to other dialects of Noord-Holland perhaps corresponds to the relative intensity of regional activities in this area (see Broersen 1996 for an overview). The rural dialects are dissolving and a regional form of Dutch, in this case western Dutch, is taking its place. However, the dialect survives in a modern form. Older plays are no longer rehearsed because the dialect used there is outdated. But on the other hand, the CD's ‘West-Friesland Plat’ (‘plat’ is ‘dialect’) sell very well, according to the record shops. Thus it is often claimed that dialects are dying because an old-fashioned type of dialect is going out of use. Similarly, older people are often complaining that correct Dutch is no longer spoken by the younger generation. Again, the same mistake is made: not the language or dialect itself, but an older form, is going out of use. This explains how it is possible that people have been claiming for two centuries now that the dialects are dying out.

Beach Dutch borders on the dialects of the sandy region of Kennemerland. In Kennemerland, most distinctive features have been lost. This is not surprising as it has been a recreation and settlement area for richer (retired) citizens for several centuries. In the polders there has been levelling through immigration.


6.2. Dialect literature

In the thirties of the 20th century, West Frisian came to be used incidentally on the stage. This entailed that it became a written language for restricted purposes. Popular books about the dialect came to be written, not only scientific publications. At first, such popular books claimed that their purpose was to teach correct Dutch to West Frisians, hence the two had to be separated (an example is Langedijk 1971). This served as a politically correct excuse for the consumption of West Frisian idiom. Later on it is claimed such books are written to preserve what is lost. But finally an honest justification arises, specifically with songwriters: they say they just like to use it. The ‘Stichting Creatief Westfries’ (the society for creative writing in West Frisian) promotes the use of West Frisian as a written language for lecture and literature. Writers include: F. Butter, N. van Laren-Zwuup, J. Ham-Dekker, T. Koomen, and J. Pannekeet. Our description of the activities in West Frisian dialect literature also applies to the other dialect areas of Noord-Holland, although there activities tend to be less intense.

There is an active group of people making music of writing in the West Frisian dialect, as inventarised by Broersen (1996)


7. Example of a dialect


7.1. Text and comments

The following West Frisian text is from Leopold & Leopold (1882, vol. 1, 208).


Och je kenne1 alles zoo zonder spreken2 niet zegge3. Weet je, weerom Piet de Boer en Jan Theunissen en Willem Groot en Gert van Rain gien moidje op sleeptouw meenomen hewwe? Ienvoudig omdat er niks van er4 gading meer is te vinden. Ze hewwe de veugel over 't touw hippe5 leeten.6 Ik zel je zegge7, wat 't geval is. Zien je deer8 in de verte die duvelse gnappe moaid heelkendal alliendig9 over de baan zwieren?10


1. The original second person plural (used as a polite form also for singular) came to be used for the second person singular in Middle Dutch and in this dialect. But the dialect had a second person plural in -e, whereas Middle Dutch, like the southern dialects from which it derives, had a second person plural in -t. Hence Modern Dutch features ‘je kunt’ instead of ‘je kenne’. The second person plural in Modern Dutch, however, ends in -e, showing the effect of northern spoken language on an originally southern written language.

2. A nominalized verb requires the ending -en.

3. The infinitive in –e is selected by modal auxiliaries like kenne.

4. Er for Dutch ‘hun’, compare Frisian har, also in R-form.

5. The infinitive in -e is selected by the causative verb leeten.

6. The infinitive-pro-participle effect of Standard Dutch is absent. Hence we encounter a perfect participle instead of an infinitival causative. The word order is inverted when compared to SD, with the main verb preceding the causative verb.

7. The infinitive in -e is selected by modal auxiliaries like zelle.

8. Dutch -aa- was raised to –ee- , as in Frisian (dêr) and English (there).

9. More use of adjectival forms in -ig, compare Dutch alleen, Frisian allinnich.

10. The infinitive in -en is selected by verbs of perception like zien.


7.2. Narrow translation in Standard Dutch

Och, je kunt alles zo zonder spreken niet zeggen. Weet je waarom Piet de Boer en Jan Theunissen en Willem Groot en Gert van Rain geen meisje op sleeptouw meegenomen hebben? Eenvoudig omdat er niks van hun gading meer is te vinden. Ze hebben de vogel over het touw laten hippen. Ik zal je zeggen wat het geval is. Zie je daar in de verte die duivels knappe meid helemaal alleen over de baan zwieren?


7.3. Translation in English

O you can't say everything without speaking. Do you know why Piet de Boer and Jan Theunissen and Willem Groot and Gert van Rain haven't taken any girl in tow? Simply because there is nothing to their taste anymore. They have let the bird jump over the rope. I will tell you what is the matter. Do you see there in the distance that devilishly pretty girl swirl over the ice all by herself?





8.1. Series of Dutch Dialect Atlases (RND)

The province is covered in vol. 13 ‘Dialektatlas van Noord-Holland’. This volume contains transcriptions of 70 dialects in the province of Noord-Holland.


8.2. Books & Articles

Bakker, G. (1992) Fries en Westfries. Een stand van zaken op het gebied van de taal-historie, het Ingweoons, de toponymie, het lexicon en de spraakkunst. Scriptie, Neerlandistiek (Dr. M. Philippa), U. of Amsterdam.

Berg, B. van den (1959) ‘Het dialect van Zandvoort en zijn plaats in de Hollandse dialecten’. Bijdragen en Mededelingen der Dialektencommissie van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen te Amsterdam 21.

Boekenoogen, G. (1897) De Zaansche Volkstaal. Bijdrage tot de kennis van den Woordenschat in Noord-Holland. A.W. Sijthoff, Leiden.

Broersen, S. (1996) ‘Koe dood, hooi op? Een eerste verkenning van de literaire en muzikale cultuur in het Westfriese dialect’. Research report, PJMI, Amsterdam.

Brok, H. (1995) ‘De middelpuntvliedende kracht van de Randstad’. In R. Belemans en H. van de Wijngaard. Het Dialectenboek 3. Dialect in Beweging. Stichting Nederlandse Dialecten, Groesbeek, 139-153.

Daan, J. (1950) Wieringer Land en Leven in de Taal. Diss, U. of Amsterdam.

Daan, J. (1955) ‘De Amsterdamse olievlek’. Taal & Tongval 7, 120-129.

Daan, J. (1956) ‘Noordhollandse dialecten’. Taal & Tongval 8, 113-121.

Eeltink, J. (1993) Wat zegge we .... Dialect - Kusthollands Egmond aan Zee. Belleman, Egmond.

Ginneken, J. van (1954) Drie Waterlandse Dialecten. Deel 1: Grammatica, Phonologie, Klankleer (bezorgd door A. Weijnen). Deel 2: De Structuur van de Woordenschat. N. Samson, Alphen aan den Rijn.

Heeroma, K. (1935) Hollandse Dialektstudies. J.B. Wolters, Groningen.

Hoekstra, E. (1993) Over de implicaties van enkele morfo-syntactische eigenaardigheden in West-Friese dialecten. Taal & Tongval 45, 135-154. (1993)

Hoekstra, E. (1994a) ‘Oer de oerienkomsten tusken de dialekten fan Noard-Hollân en it Frysk’. In Ph. Breuker, S. Dyk, D. Gorter, L. Jansma and W. Visser (eds) Philologia Frisica anno 1993. Fryske Akademy, Ljouwert, 81-103.

Hoekstra, E. (1994b) ‘Positie- en Bewegingsaspect bij Selectie van de Infinitief op -E of -EN in het Westfries en het Fries’. Taal & Tongval 46, 66-73.

Hoekstra, E. (1994c) ‘Woordvolgorde en het Infinitivus-pro-Participio Effect in het Zaans’. Taal & Tongval 46, 132-141.

Hoekstra, E. (1994d) ‘Overtollige voegwoorden en de volgorde of + interrogativum/relativum’. De Nieuwe Taalgids 87, 314-321,

Hoekstra, E. en W. Taanman (1996) ‘Een West-Friese gradatie van het Infinitivus-pro-Participio Effect’. Nederlandse Taalkunde 1, 39-51.

Hoekstra, E. (1998) Oer de oerienkomst tusken de dialekten fan Grinslânsk en it Frysk. In Ph. Breuker, S. Dyk, L. Jansma, W. Visser & J. Ytsma (redaksje) Philologia Frisica anno 1996. Fryske Akademy, Ljouwert, 117-137.

Karsten, G. (1931) Het Dialect van Drechterland. J. Musses, Purmerend.

Langedijk, H. (1971) Hé, is dat Westfries? Uitgeverij en drukkerij ‘West-Friesland’, Hoorn. Onder auspiciën van het Historisch Genootschap ‘Oud West-Friesland’.

Pannekeet, J. (1979) Woordvorming in het hedendaags Westfries. Diss, U. of Nijmegen. Rodopi, Amsterdam.

Pannekeet, J. (1984) Westfries woordenboek. Stichting Uitgeverij Noord-Holland, Wormerveer.

Pannekeet, J. (1995) Het Westfries. Inventarisatie van Dialectkenmerken. Stichting Uitgeverij Noord-Holland, Wormerveer.

Schatz, H. (1987) Lik op stuk. Het dialect van Amsterdam. BZZTôH, Den Haag.

Spoelstra, S.  (1981) Enkhuizer Woordenboek. P.J. Meertens-Instituut, Amsterdam.

Woudt, K. (1984) Deer hoor ik je. Gedachten over de Zaanse streektaal. Stichting Uitgeverij Noord-Holland, Wormerveer.


8.3. Other studies

Groot, C. de (1995) ‘De absentief in het Nederlands: een grammaticale categorie’. Forum der Letteren 36, 1-18.

Haan, R. de & J. Hoekstra (1993) ‘Morfologyske tûkelteammen by de leksikale útwreiding fan it Frysk’. It Beaken 55, 14-31.

Heeroma, K. (1951) ‘Ontspoorde Frankiseringen’. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde 68, 81-96.

Hoeksema, J. (1992) ‘Bevelende zinnen zonder polaire tegenhanger’. In H. Bennis en J. de Vries (eds) De Binnenbouw van het Nederlands. Een bundel artikelen voor Piet Paardekooper. ICG, Dordrecht, 125-131.

Hoekstra, J. (1992) ‘Fering tu-infinitives, North Sea Germanic syntax and Universal Grammar’. In: V. Faltings, A. Walker & O Wilts (ed.) Friesische Studien I, 99-142. Odense University Press, Odense [= NOWELE Supp. vol. 8]

Leopold, J.A. & L. Leopold (1882) Van de Schelde tot de Weichsel. Nederduitsche dialecten in dicht en ondicht (3 dln). Wolters, Groningen.

Paardekooper, P. (1990) ‘‘Eenlettergrepige’ niet-ontleende Westvlaamse s-meervoude’. Gramma 14, 25-51.

Paardekooper, P. (1993) ‘Jaak/Neenik enz.’ Taalkundig Bulletin 23, 143-170.

Philippa, M. (1987) Noord-Zee-Germaanse Ontwikkelingen. Eenkeur van fonologische, morfologische en syntactische parallellen op Noord- en Noordzeegermaans gebied. Diss., U. of Amsterdam. Kanters, Alblasserdam.

Schutter, G. de (1974) ‘'Wezen vissen'. Dialektgeografie van een konstruktie.’ Taal & Tongval 26, 70-85.

Schuurman, I. (1987) ‘Incorporation in the Groningen dialect’. In F. Beukema & P. Coopmans (eds) Linguistics in the Netherlands. Foris, Dordrecht, 185-194.

Smessaert, H. (1995) ‘Morfo-syntaxis van het Westvlaamse bé-jaa-k-gie’. Taalkundig Bulletin 25, 45-60.

Stroop, J. (1984) ‘De lexicale leemte als verklaringsprincipe’. Taal & Tongval 36, 1-24.




 III. Zuid-Holland



1. Classification of the area


1.1. Standard division

Zuid-Holland is probably the most urbanized part of the Netherlands. The Rotterdam conurbation, over 1 million inhabitants, is the biggest metropole in this country. Den Haag (The Hague), seat of the government, is the third city of the Netherlands. Other cities of importance are Leiden, Delft, Dordrecht, and Gouda. The province itself can be subdivided in a number of regions of which the borders have been determined by historical factors.

The city dialects of the cities mentioned above are more sociolects than dialects in a traditional (regional) sense. Even when they are not completely melted into one, like Rotterdam and its suburbs, or Den Haag and Zoetermeer, they share a series of features.

Beach Dutch (see also the chapter on Noord-Holland) is the name sometimes used for the dialects spoken in the fishing villages in Noord and Zuid-Holland. The most characteristic representative of these dialects is spoken in Katwijk. Other villages include Scheveningen and Zandvoort.

Rural Dutch is a cover term for the dialects spoken in the countryside. Island Dutch is the term for the dialects spoken on the islands and the rural part of the rivers area in the South of Zuid-Holland. The rural countryside dialect originally was related to that of Beach Dutch, but it is not very much alive nowadays.

The archaic and more deviant features of the dialects of Zuid-Holland typically occur in rural dialects and Beach Dutch. Sometimes we also find 'strange' (strange only as compared to Standard Dutch) innovations in the cities. Such innovations or just characteristic features tend to be characteristic of low class speech. This is much less the case with the characteristic features of the rural dialects.

Different alltogether are the two dialects of Goeree-Overflakkee. They share properties with the dialects of Zuid-Holland on the one hand, with those of Zeeland, on the other, while maintaining a character of their own.

Thus the dialects of Zuid-Holland form a heterogeneous set.


1.2. Dialecthistorical introduction

At the end of the first millennium AD Zuid-Holland was a backwater politically controlled by the Frisians who occupied the trade centre of Dorestad (in the present-day province of Utrecht). They mediated the trade between the Franks and the peoples living in Scandinavia and off the coasts of the Baltic sea. Gold treasures dating back to these times are still found in the the northern provinces of Friesland and Groningen. In addition, the existence of a royal household in Friesland has recently been confirmed by findings of kingly gold. Frisian (in the sense of northern) control over Zuid-Holland is further confirmed by the fact that Charlemagne included Zuid-Holland in the area ruled by Frisian Law. Linguistically, there is hardly any evidence left of northern influence. However, Blok (1959) gives two arguments for northern influence based on the oldest surviving language data as found in placenames mentioned on charters. The first argument is based on the geographical distribution of morphemes in placenames. More specifically, placenames with the prefix ‘heem’ in Zuid-Holland can be analysed as an offshoot of Frisian placenames with ‘heem’. The second argument is based on phonological phenomena in placenames which are typically Frisian. Blok mentions the rising diphthongs in old field names on the old land of Zuid-Holland, rising diphthongs being considered to be typically Frisian, and the unrounding of /u/ to /wi/ in the river name ‘Swiete’ for ‘Zoete’ (English ‘sweet’, Frisian ‘swiet’).

With the defeat of the Frisians, Zuid-Holland was brought under the political domination of the Franks, coming from the South. This was the beginning of the process of developing a standard language with a constant influence from the South, a process which was slowed down considerably when the Netherlands became an independent nation in the seventeenth century.

Heeroma (1951) was ahead of his time when he argued that a number of etymological mysteries in the coast area could be explained as the result of language contact between a northern language variety (which he referred to as Ingweaonic, a designation for Frisian/English type of Germanic dialects) and Frankish, with Frankish as the second language, Ingwaeonic as the original mother tongue. Ingweaonic had a much simpler vowel system than Frankish. Hence, a given Ingwaeonic vowel could correspond to various vowels in Frankish, leading to unetymological transpositions by speakers in their attempts, conscious or unconscious, to speak Frankish, the status variety.

Recently, Buccini (1992, 1995) has also accounted for the arbitrary levelling of morphological umlaut in these dialects by means of a similar scenario. Thus the levelling of morphological umlaut in the Dutch coastal dialects is part of the same process as the early levelling of morphological umlaut in Old English. However, under the influence of Frankish, levelling in the coastal dialects may also imply generalisation of the non-umlauted form, as an attempt to imitate Frankish.


1.3. Dialectgeographical introduction

Zuid-Holland dialects are distinguished from those of Utrecht by the presence of vowel shortening in Utrecht. For example, boter with long /o/, becomes butter in Utrecht. The great rivers form a geographical barrier between Zuid-Holland and Noord Brabant. South of the river area the second person singular pronoun begins with a /g/ (ge, gij). Zuid-Holland is distinguished from Noord-Holland in that words ending in -de like kade are reduced as ka in Zuid-Holland, as kaat in Noord-Holland.

The term Beach Dutch was coined by Heeroma (1935). A typical characteristic of Beach Dutch is the use of the form iet for ‘niet’ (‘not’).



Goeree-Overflakkee is geographically and linguistically a border area between Zuid-Holland and Zeeland. Landheer (1955) extensively discusses the influence of Zuid-Holland on Flakkees. It is noted in Weijnen (1966) that the third person pronoun masculine -en occurs on Goeree-Overflakkee, but not more up north.


1.4. Dialect studies


Daan & Heeroma (1965) contains some lexical and phonological observations about various dialects in this province, analysed from a historical perspective. Westland, close to The Hague, is a region with some dialect activity and interest.

Lafeber (1967) is a traditional description of the dialect of Gouda; likewise Goeman (1984) for Zoetermeer. Goeman’s book is very well documented with respect to morphological variation. Neither contains much syntactic information; Goeman's book takes a historical-phonological perspective.

Overdiep (1940) is an excellent description of the dialect of Katwijk, containing lots of interesting syntactic and idiomatic information.

A fairly complete grammatical description appeared of a dialect of Goeree, Ouddurps, by Tanis (1994).



2. Phonetics and phonology


For this section we take the study of the Gouda dialect by Lafeber (1967) as a starting point.

The Gouda phoneme inventory is not very distinct from Standard Dutch, except for the fact that the central vowels tend to be more diphthongized (see below)


2.1 Vowels


a. long vowels:


vowel                    example                Dutch


/a/                         mak∂                     mak∂(n)                to make

/e./                        mei                       mei                       with

/i/                          dif                         dif                         thief

/ø/                        nøs                       nøs                       nose

/o/                         moul∂                    moul∂(n)                mill

/u/                         duk                       duk                       cloth

/y/                         ny                         ny                         now


The mid-open vowels [e], [o], [ø] are in the Zuid-Holland dialects more diphtongized than in Standard Dutch. In the city dialects (e.g. Rotterdam, The Hague) they tend to be complete diphthongs, like in English.

It is remarkable that in an earlier stage there was no diphthongization of central vowels at all. The sounds [I:] and [o:], which are found in Dutch as allophones of respectively [ei] and [ou] preceding /r/, existed in the Gouda dialect as independent phonemes in almost any environment, except auslaut (Lafeber 1967:13). In earlier times, there existed a difference between [o]-sounds that go back to wgm. au, and [o]-sounds that resulted from lengthening of short [o].

Goeree-Overflakkee shares with the dialects of Zeeland the property of a more palatal pronunciation of wgm.â (æ). We find this sound even more to the north, on the islands of Hoekse waard and Voorne-Putten (ANKO 1, map 5 (schaap), 6 (laten), 10 (waard)).



b. short vowels:


vowel                    example                Dutch



/α/                        kαt                        kαt                        cat

/ε/                         bεt                        bεt                        bed

/I/                         pIt                         pIt                        kernel

/O/                        pOt                       pOt                       pot

/V/                        pVt                       pVt                       pit


Island Dutch shows unrounding of /V/ to /I/ (rVx > rIk, ‘back, ridge’, see ANKO 1, map 4)


d. schwa:


/∂/                         d∂                         d∂                         the


c. diphthongs


In the Zuid-Holland dialects we find the following diphthongs:


/εi/                        fεin                       fεin                       fine

/œi/                       tœin                      tœin                      garden

/au/                       aut                        aut                        old


Lafeber (1967:14) claims that the first element of the diphthong /εi/ used to be pronounced with a lowered first element /a/ in the Gouda dialect in earlier times, and that it was only in the sixties that this diphthong was pronounced (almost) similar to Standard Dutch.

In more recent times, however, it looks like /ai/ is taking over Zuid-Holland once again. The heart of this area is the city of Rotterdam, where this pronunciation was reported for already a century ago (and probably was imported by immigrants from the province of Brabant, who moved in when the ports of Rotterdam began to expand in the second half of the 19th century). In the seventies and eighties of the 20th century the /ai/-pronunciation started to make its way into Delft (De Reus 1991) and Den Haag (Elias 1980), where it even managed (partially) to take the place of the secondary monophtong /e./, which is still very characteristic of the Den Haag city dialect. There are some indications that /ai/ in general is becoming a popular feature of Dutch in unelaborated style among broad strata of the Dutch society (Stroop 1997).

A secondary monophthong is present throughout the whole of the province (ANKO 2, map 12, uit).

Westgermanic î and û are not diphthongized on the island of Goeree-Overflakkee; as in the bordering dialects of Zeeland they are generally pronounced /i/ and /y/.


2.2. Consonants


                        Bilabials            Labio-   Alveolar            Palatal  Velar    Glottal


Plosives            p, b                               t, d                                k, g

Fricatives                                  v, f       s, z                               S, X      h

Nasals              m                                 n                                  η

Liquids                                                  r, l

Glides                                       w                                 j


A century ago, /h/ was not pronounced in the dialects of Gouda and surrounding places (Moordrecht, Waddinxveen, Nieuwerkerk, Ouderkerk, Berg-Ambacht, Groot-Ammers). Nowadays /h/ is still absent from the fisherman’s towns Noordwijk, Scheveningen, Terheijde, Vlaardingen (Scholtmeijer 1997).

Word-final -t is often deleted, and the frequency of deletion depends on both the linguistic environment and the social class of the speaker. Lower class people in the city of Leiden are deleting on average 28 % of the words that are pronounced with t in Standard Dutch (De Vries et al. 1974).

On the other hand, t is added as well, in nouns and in the first person singular of verbs in present tense (ik doet, ik loopt, ‘I do’, ‘I walk’)


2.3. Allophonic variation

As stated above, there existed troughout the province a difference between [o]-sounds that go back to wgm. au and [o]-sounds that resulted from lengthening of short [o]. Now in some parts the difference is no longer etymological, but phonetic: an undiphtongized [o], similar to the pronunciation of Dutch [o] before /r/, can be heard before dental consonants as well in the region North of the river Oude Rijn. For labial and guttural consonants we find in this region the slightly diphthongized variant that is used in Standard Dutch (except before /r/). The island of Voorne Putten, in the south of the province, has a mix of etymological and phonetic distribution (Daan & Heeroma 1965:9-10). The rest of the province, in between these peripheries, has no difference between the [o]-sounds at all.


3. Morphology


In this section and the following, we provide a brief description of the morphology and syntax of the dialect of Gouda, based on Lafeber's well-organised and readable study.


3.1 Plural and diminutive nouns


3.1.1. Plural

Some words have a plural in /s/ where Standard Dutch had a sjwa, written as -en. This applies to a group of simple words, which are sometimes considered to be ingweaonisms: kip - kippes, meid - meides, eend - eendes, smit - smis, and many agrarian words.

Gat has two plurals. If it means ‘opening’, it has a long stem vowel in the plural, like in Standard Dutch (gat - gaten). If it means ‘arse’, the stem vowel remains short (gat - gatten).

Oorlog ‘war’ has an analogical plural in Gouds (oorloggen), whereas in Standard Dutch the stem vowel is lengthened in the plural (oorlogen).


3.1.2. Diminutive

The Dutch diminutive -je is -ie in Gouds, as in Rotterdams and other city dialects of the west. Instead of SD -tje, Gouds has -tie and -tjie. -tie is found after /l,r/ preceded by a long vowel. -tjie occurs after long vowel + n, and after n + dental.

Like other areas of Zuid-Holland, Gouda preserves an old, nearly obsolete suffix -chie. It occurs after long vowels and /j, w/, as in la - laa(j)chie ‘drawer’. It also occurs after a set of words ending in short vowel + /b,l,m,n,r/: the suffix then takes the form ‘-echie’ as in bal - ballechie. The suffix also occurs after the aforementioned consonants + sjwa: tobbe - tobbechie. In some words, the old form is competing with a new form: poppechie versus poppie ‘baby’, vlachie versus vlaggetjie ‘flag’, kaarechie versus kaartie ‘card’. In kaarechie, the /t/ has been dropped before the suffix -echie. The form jo(n)chie (‘boy’) presumably derives from jonge + -chie. Jochie has entered Standard Dutch as a vocative or a word with a negative connotation. Back-formation of jochie lead to joch, the /x/ being no longer recognised as part of the diminutive, but analysed as part of the stem. The ch-diminutive, though nearly extinct, is very interesting. It is absent in the indigenous dialect of Noord-Holland and Friesland. However, the distribution of the ch-diminutive in Zuid-Holland overlaps with the distribution of ch-diminutives in Saxon dialects (Hoekstra & Van Koppen 1999).

The nominal suffix -heid attaches to adjectives in Dutch. Gouds, however, prefers to first append the adjectival suffix -ig to adjectives, before adding -heid. Thus SD - Gouds: lafheid - laffichheid ‘cowardice’, gulheid - gullichheid ‘generosity’. These Gouda nouns in -ichheid would be ungrammatical in SD. This use of -ig- as a binding morpheme between adjective and -heid is also possible in Noord-Holland, Friesland and Groningen.


3.2. Adjectives

Adjectives get the ending -en if they mean very much so, as in:kauweleken Dries da je bén ‘Cold Dries that you are!’; lêêleken snotaap ‘nasty little bastard’.

This ending is not phonologically conditioned as is den (see the section on articles).

The endings -ig and -erig are used much more in Gouds than in Standard Dutch; in this respect, Gouds patterns with the northern provinces. Furthermore, where SD has -ig, Gouds can also use -erig, intensifying the meaning somewhat. Examples:


Gouds                           Standard Dutch


bochtereg                      bochtig ‘with a lot of turns’

anaalderech                  aanhalig (from aanhalen ‘caress, fondle’)

buierech                        buiig (from bui ‘shower’)

allêênech                      alleen ‘alone’


3.3. Subject and object pronouns


Most pronouns are as in Standard Dutch, except for the following.



Object form is mijn, or, as a weak clitic, men. This is ungrammatical in Standard Dutch. Mijn/ men is also the form of the possessive in Gouds (as in SD). The possessive forms of the singular pronoun can all be used as object pronouns in Gouds.



The form je becomes ie after consonants. Ie never precedes the verb. Examples. Kom ie ‘come you’, Mo je ‘must you’. Object form is jou, or weak je/ie. The polite form U was absent in older Gouds.



In inversion, tie can be used (impossible in SD):

            it benne allegaar leugens die tie vertelt

            ‘it 's all lies what he 's saying’

Object forms of the feminine pronoun are d'r en aar. Masculine object pronouns are zein, ém and em. The form zein does not occur in SD.



Alongside weij en we, the non SD form me is used in inversion (inversion = after tensed verbs and complementisers).



Sometimes je is used as a weak clitic form for SD and Gouds jullie.



The full form is zullie or ullie. The weak object form is ze. Instead of ze, sometimes ‘d'r’ is used as a weak object pronoun. The form d'r for plural is homophonous to the feminine singular. Homophony of masculine and femimine plural with the feminine singular may be an ingweaonism, since it occurs in Old English and Old Frisian (now going out of use in Standard Frisian).


3.4. Possessive pronouns

The form d'r is not only used for the feminine singular but also for the plural (SD hun). Emphatic form is d'rlui. SD hun sometimes appears in Gouds as un.


3.5. Reflexive pronouns

The SD form zich is absent. Instead, a possessive pronoun plus the head noun eigen (‘own’) is used. The SD word zelf is replaced in Gouds by eigen in other contexts as well, for example:

da chaad ui sen eige, SD dat gaat vanzelf, ‘that happens of itself’.

dat is fan der eige, SD dat is van haar zelf, ‘that is her own’.


3.6. Demonstratives

When used as nouns, they are sometimes preceded by the definite article: den deuze ‘this one’, den dieje ‘that one’.


3.7. Articles

There are some differences with Standard Dutch in semantically restricted areas. Thus, for a group of words for places, both de and het /et/ are used: op te Vêêrstal and op et Fêêrstal. In other cases, there is a difference in meaning: den uis ‘the house’ is the speaker's house, et uis is an arbitrary house.

The older generation uses den (originally an accusative form) instead of de when the following noun or adjective begins with a vowel, /b/ or /d/. Likewise the demonstrative die (‘that’) becomes dien.


4. Syntax


This section deals with syntax, that is, with inflection (contextually determined flection, or inflectional morphology) and word order phenomena.


4.1. Complementisers

Complementisers in Gouds regularly exhibit complementiser agreement for the plural in sjwa. That is. if the following subject is plural, the complementiser is lengthened with a sjwa:

            Ik weet niet ovve men vaader en moeder ook meej komme

            I don't know whether my father and mother also come along



            Ik weet niet of men vaader ook meej komt

            I don't know whether my father also comes along


Here the complementiser of is pluralised to ovve as if it were a verb. This phenomenon occurs in many dialects of Noord and Zuid-Holland (Van Haeringen 1939, Hoekstra & Smits 1997).

The complementiser of typically occurs after question words in interrogative and relative clauses:


            Je mo maar iz leeze wat of tie schreift

            you should read what he writes

This phenomenon is widespread in Zuid- and Noord-Holland. Compare, for example, Overdiep 1940 for Katwijks.


4.2. Prepositions

Adverbs like bove ‘above’ are lengthened with -ne when they follow a preposition: naa boovene ‘to above, up’, van voorene ‘on the front side’.

For placenames outside the city the preposition op is often used instead of SD in: eij werrekt op Aastert ‘he works in Aastert’. This use of op is also found in Noord-Holland, Friesland and Groningen.

Peculiar is the construction dut op, a combination of a demonstrative and a particle (intransitive preposition or postposition) meaning ‘in this / that direction’. This construction is also found in Noord-Holland (Boekenoogen 1897), and, with the particle út in Frisian. Nevertheless, it is absent in the Dutch standard language.


4.3. Verbs

The SD infinitive zijn is absent with older speakers. Instead, weze is used (like in Noord-Holland, Frieland, Groningen). The present tense plural is with a b-form, in Gouda benne (elsewhere also binne). Speakers who have begun using the infinitive zijn add a sjwa in the singular: me zeine ‘we are’; thus all verbs in Gouds have a sjwa in the present tense plural (a precondition for complementiser agreement according to Hoekstra & Smits 1997).

The present tense singular of most other verbs does not exhibit person distinctions as SD does. The verb stem may be used in first, second and third person singular: a -t may be appended to the verb stem, but its distribution is phonologically conditioned. This is also true of other South Holland city dialects. Note, though, that the verb weze ‘to be’ does exhibit person distinctions in the singular.


4.4. Nouns

Proper names used to get the ending -en after prepositions and in the genitive and the dative. Proper names ending in a vowel get the ending -s instead. Examples: geef Willemen dat maar ‘give that to Willem’, dat is Jannen broek ‘that is Jan's trousers’, dat is te moeder van Mienaas ‘that is the mother of Mina's’. This phenomenon is only found with older people.

Some prepositions which used to govern the dative allowed proper names to be appended with -e: naa Marieje ‘to Marie’, mid Willeme ‘with Willem’. This phenomenon also occurs in Katwijk (Overdiep 1940), see also Van Haeringen (1949).


5. Lexicon


5.1. Sources

Contrary to the weak position of the dialect in Zuid-Holland (but probably as a result of this), there exists a fine range of local dialect dictionaries. Recent cover the following places and area’s:


Zoetermeer: Van der Spek 1981

Dordrecht: De Grauw & Gast 1983

Scheveningen: Roeleveld 1986

Rotterdam: Oudenaarden 1986

Krimpenerwaard: Van der Ent 1990


A reprint of Overdiep’s (1940) dictionary on the dialect of Katwijk aan Zee appeared in 1987; a new edition is on it’s way. Also local dictionaries of Hoekse Waard and Sliedrecht are under construction (see Berns 1991:17).

Popular books on the dialects of Rotterdam (Oudenaarden 1984) and The Hague (Van Gaalen & Van den Mosselaar 1985) contain some unsystematically gathered words. The local vocabulary of Leiden, The Hague and Rotterdam is treated in Kruijsen & Van der Sijs (1999).


5.2. Word-geographical distribution

Jo Daan, who worked for many years on the Taalatlas van Noord- en Zuid-Nederland (TNZN) states in her 1952 article that there are hardly any words that can be regarded as typical for the province of Zuid-Holland. One of the two words she mentions, zeuning (Du. Varkenstrog, ‘trough’, Map 1-11) is not even restricted to Zuid-Holland: it is found only in the east of this provice, and in the whole of the province of Utrecht (probably it is better looked upon as an Utrecht word). The other, arend (‘part of a scythe’, Map 1-1) is indeed restricted to Zuid-Holland, but it can, according to the title of the map, also be seen as the standard language word.

Four other words have, again according to Daan, a Zuid-Holland-Utrecht area of distribution

·         wiersen (‘to put hay in long strokes’)

·         hoop (Du. hooiopper, ‘hay-cock’)

·         vloot (‘tray where butter is kneaded’; it is interesting to see that botervloot nowadays in standard Dutch is the word for ‘butter dish’)

·         til (Du. hooizolder, ‘hayloft’)

Van Veen (1988) adds four more words to the rather limited amount of Zuid-Holland dialect words;

·         ribbel (Du. gulzig, ‘greedy’)

·         bunzig (Du. bang, ‘afraid’)

·         gruizig (Du.gretig, niet kieskeurig, ‘eager’)

·         schis (Du. vlug, ‘quick’)

Again, these words like others are not always restricted to Zuid-Holland. But sometimes their use is so much connected to this province, that they can be regarded as Zuid-Holland words. The best example is probably kreen, which has more or less the same meaning as ‘clean’, but is not etymologically related (although Buma (1960) came to this conclusion some fourty years ago, even the youngest print of Van Dale Great Dictionary of Dutch (1999) stubbornly goes on to say that there is a link). The word kreen, especially in its meaning ‘extremely neat’ is connected to the Zuid-Holland practice of cheese making at the farm-stead.


6. Sociolinguistics


6.1. Sociological position of the dialect

City dialects interact with social stratification in the usual way. The recent popularity of dialects in the nineties is something which the city dialects have also profited from. There is an extremely popular comic written in the dialect of The Hague. Interestingly, the hero, Harry, also carries a number of cultural ideals typically associated with lower class according to middle class, such as vulgarity, rudeness, violence and hedonism. This is combined with a fashionable multi-cultural idealism that is in reality typical of middle class rather than of lower class.

The decline of small cities in general at the expense of big cities and the decline of the fishing industry contribute to the extinction of the Beach Dutch dialects. Island Dutch, a set of typically rural dialects, is likewise declining due to the cultural hegemony of the cities, and to the impoverishment of rural life. In many villages, natives leave for the cities, and their houses are bought as second houses by rich people. Nevertheless, there are books written in the dialect e.g. of the Hoekse Waard, the Westland.

On the island of Goeree Overflakkee the process of extinction is much slower, perhaps so much slower that here we can still speak of dialect change rather than of dialect death.


6.2. Dialect literature

Dialect literature is only sparse in this province. Yet a great number of dialect words are to be found in the works of regional literature, like Jo van Dorp-Ypma (Hazerswoude), who can boast of an immense popularity troughout the whole of the country. Proliferation of dialect words by means of literature in Standard Dutch is also found in the bestselling works of Maarten ‘t Hart (Maassluis), Kees van Kooten (Den Haag), Jules Deelder (Rotterdam), C. Buddingh’ (Dordrecht).

As mentioned above, the comics about Harry are a national success, testifying to the increasing popularity of city dialects. Apart from the comic, the writers also brought out a bestseller parodying the Groene Boekje, a guide for the correct writing of Standard Dutch. The parody is a humorous and well-written guide for the correct use of the dialect of Den Haag.



7. Example of a dialect


7.1. Text

The following fragment in the Gouda dialect is taken from Lafeber (1967).


Van Kneelez èn Piet, dieje naa de Gooverwèlsen Deik gonge om te komfôôje èn oo ovve ze van en kauwe kèrremis tuis kwamme.


Kneelez at te smôor in az en auwe dief. Ei stong vôøiorover mi sen kop teuge [1] den [2] eekelschuur an op et oekie [3] fan de Spèldemaakersteech èn van neidicheit stong die, zôôw art as tie kon, mi sen blooke teuege [1] de schuur an te schoppe [1]. Auwe Mie, die in de schuur stond te eekle [1] mi Bèt fan Dam, wier da chebonk sat èn ze schrêêwde naa buitene [4]: ‘ Zèg, lêêleke snotaap, wi je wèl iz opauwe mi tie èrrie, anders s`e k iej [5] iz mi je kop oover den eekel aale!’.

Nau, da mo je nèd dènke, azzie zôô bôôz bèn az Kneeleze, da je der dan zôô maar meej uischeit, as se t je zègge.

‘Je kèn de pip kreige! roop tie, zôôw art as tie kon na binnene èn toe gong die noch feul arder staan te schoppe, èn mi sen knuiste gong die ook nog op te planke staan te [6] bonke.

‘ Nou, mo je dat nau maar zôô gemoederêêrd oover je kant laate’ zeej Auwe Mie teuge Bèt.

‘Ag minz, laat tie maar in zen sop gaar kooke, dan schei tie der et êêrste uit. Rèchtewôôrdeg luistere de jonges toch nie naa vebieje. Ovvie ze wat iet of ta je ze wat ferbiet, ze laanen [7] et tog niet.’ Da see Bèt.


1. Phonological reduction of -EN to -E in most contexts.

2. Lack of -N reduction of the article before a following vowel.

3. Diminutive -IE is common in the rural dialects, city dialects and informal speech.

4. Locative adverbs such as buiten ‘outside’ get marked with a -E after a preposition.

5. Pronoun 2SG ‘je’ developed into ‘ie’, just like diminutive ending ‘-je’

6. TE still co-occurs with aspectual (progressive) use of the auxiliary staan ‘stand’.

7. Lack of -N reduction of the plural present tense form of the verb before a vowel.


7.2. Narrow translation in Dutch

Van Knelis en Piet, die naar de Goejanverwelledijk gingen om (appels en peren) te stelen en hoe ze van een koude kermis thuis kwamen.


Knelis had de smoor in als een oude dief. Hij stond voorover met zijn hoofd tegen de hekelschuur op het hoekje van de Speldenmakerssteeg en van nijdigheid stond hij, zo hard als hij kon, met zijn klompen tegen de schuur aan te schoppen. Oude Mie, die in de schuur stond te hekelen met Bet van Dam, werd dat gebonk zat en ze schreeuwde naar buiten: ‘Zeg, lelijke snotaap, wil je wel eens ophouden met die herrie, anders zal ik je eens met je kop ove de hekel halen.

Nou, dat moet je net denken, als je zo boos bent als Knelis, dat je er dan zomaar mee uitscheidt, als ze het je zeggen.

‘ Je kan de pip (kippenziekte) krijgen!’ riep hij, zo hard als hij kon naar binnen; toen ging hij nog veel harder staan te schoppen, en met zijn vuisten ging hij ook nog op de planken staan te bonken.

‘ Nou, moet je dat nou maar zo kalm over je kant laten?’ zei Oude Mie tegen Bet.

‘Ach mens, laat hij maar in zijn sop gaar koken, dan scheidt hij er het snelst mee uit. Tegenwoordig luisteren de jongens toch niet naar verbieden. Oj je ze wat gebiedt of dat je ze wat verbiedt, ze laaten het toch niet’. Dat zei Bet.



7.3. Translation in English

About Knelis and Piet, who went to Goejanverwelledijk to steal (apples and pears) and how they came away with a flea in their ear.


Knelis had an angry as angry as an old thief. He stood with his head bent forward against the flax-hackling barn at the corner of the Speldenmakers-alley and out of sheer frustration he was kicking with his clogs against the barn. Old Mie, who was hackling flax with Bet van Dam, was getting fed up with the noise and she yelled outside: ‘Hey, nasty rascal, won’t you stop making that noice, or else I’ll put the hackle on your head.

Well, just think, if you are as angry as Knelis, that you just stop, if they tell you to.

‘Get the pip (chicken disease)!’, he yelled as hard as he could to those inside; then he began kicking even harder and with his fists he also began banging against the wood.

‘Well, should you just let that happen to you?’, said Old Mie to Bet.

‘O girl, let him roast in his own fire, then he’ll quit the soonest. Nowadays, boys don’t listen to ‘don’t-do-that’. Regardless of whether you command or forbid, they won’t leave off.’ That is what Bet said.



8. Bibliography


8.1. Series of Dutch Dialect Atlases (RND)

Most of the province is covered in vol. 11, Zuid-Holland en Utrecht. This volume contains transcriptions of 53 dialects in the province of Zuid-Holland.

Vol. 9, Noord-Brabant, covers 35 dialects in the south.

The dialects of the islands (Voorne-Putten, Hoekse Waard, Goeree-Overflakkee), 11 dialects, are covered by vol. 5, Zeeuwsche eilanden.


8.2. Books & Articles

Blok, D. (1959) ‘De vestigingsgeschiedenis van Holland en Zeeland in het licht van de plaatsnamen.’ Bijdragen en Mededelingen der Naamkunde Commissie van de KNAW, Amsterdam, 13-38.

Buma, W.J. (1960), ‘De geschiedenis van het woord ‘kreen’’, Taal en Tongval 12, p. 61-70)

Daan Jo (1952), ‘Zuid-Hollands woordconservatisme’, Taal en Tongval 4, p. 22-31.

Daan, Jo en K. Heeroma (1965) ‘Zuid-Hollands’. Bijdragen en Mededelingen van de Dialectencommissie van de KNAW, Amsterdam.

Elias, M. 1980 ‘Enige aspekten van het Haagse stadsdialekt’. In: G.Geerts en A. Hagen (red.) Sociolinguïstische studies 1. Bijdragen uit het Nederlandse taalgebied. Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff, p. 80-96.

Ende, A.L. van den 1985 ‘Kommie uit Rotterdam dan’. Enkele aspecten van het   Rotterdams’. Taal en Tongval 37, p. 165-181.

Ent, N. Van der (1990), Van ijzendijkers, nijpnaarzen en andere minne breiers. Een verzameling woorden uit de Krimpenerwaard. Schoonhoven: Stichting Krimpenerwaard.

Gaalen, A. van & F. van den Mosselaar (1985), Kèk mè nâh. Plaat & bekakt Haags. ‘s-Gravenhage: BZZTôH.

Goeman, T. (1984) Klank- en Vormverschijnselen van het Dialect van Zoetermeer. Publicaties van het Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam.

Grauw, S. De & G. Gast (1983), ABCDordt. Dordtse woorden en uitdrukkingen, gedichtjes, versjes en dialect.

Heeroma, K. (1935) Hollandse Dialektstudies. J.B. Wolters, Groningen.

Koppen, M. van (1999) Voegwoordvariaties in Zuid-Holland. Research report, Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam.

Lafeber, A.P.M. met medewerking van L.B. Korstanje (1967) Het Dialect van Gouda. Oudheidkundige Kring ‘Die Goude’, Gouda.

Landheer, H.C. (1955) Het Dialect van Overflakkee, met een Vocabularium. Van Gorcum, Assen.

Oudenaarden, J. (1984), Wat zeggie? Azzie val dan leggie. Een speurtocht naar het dialect van Rotterdam. Utrecht/Antwerpen: Veen.

Oudenaarden, J. (1986). De terugkeer van Opoe Herfst. Over de woordenschat van Rotterdam. Utrecht/Antwerpen: Veen.

Overdiep, G.S. (1940) De volkstaal van Katwijk aan Zee. Standaard-Boekhandel, Antwerpen.

Reus, A. de 1991 Diftongen in het Delfts dialect. Taal en Tongval 43, p. 137-158.

Roeleveld, D. (1986), De Scheveningse woordenschat. ’s-Gravendeel: Robbemond.

Spek, J. van der (1981), Zoetermeers woordenboek.

Tanis, G. (1994) Beknopte Spraekkunst van uus Ouddurps. Uutgeeverieje Kees van Koppen, Ouddurp.

Veen, T. van (1988), ‘Zuid-Hollandse woorden’, Taal en Tongval 1988, p. 40-45.

Vries, J.W. e.a. (1974), ‘De slot-t in consonantclusters te Leiden: een sociolinguïstisch onderzoek’, Forum der Letteren 15, p. 235-250.

Weel, M.A. van (1904) Het Dialect van West-Voorne. Brill, Leiden.


8.3. Other studies

Berns, J. (1991), Dialectwoordenboeken. Taal en tongval themanummer 4, p. 8-24.

Buccini, A. (1992) The development of umlaut and the dialectal position of Dutch in Germanic. (Doctoral Dissertation, Cornell University) University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor.

Buccini, A. (1995) Ontstaan en vroegste ontwikkeling van het Nederlandse taallandschap. Taal & Tongval themanummer 8 Historische Dialectologie. Onder redactie van J. Goossens, J. van Loon en H. Niebaum.

Boekenoogen, G. (1897) De Zaansche Volkstaal. Bijdrage tot de kennis van de woordenschat in Noord-Holland. A.W. Sijthoff, Leiden.

Haeringen, C. van (1939) ‘Congruerende voegwoorden’. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde 58, 161-176. Herdrukt in Neerlandica. Verspreide opstellen (1962), Daamen, Den Haag, 246-259.

Hoekstra, E. & C. Smits (1997) ‘Vervoegde voegwoorden in de Nederlandse dialecten: een aantal generalisaties’. In Hoekstra & Smits (red.) Vervoegde Voegwoorden. Cahiers van het Meertens Instituut 9, Amsterdam, 6-30.

Kruijsen, J., & N. van der Sijs (1999), Honderd jaar stadstaal. Amsterdam: Contact.

Maesfranckx, P. & J. Taeldeman (1998) ‘Polyseem, polyvalent en vaag -achtig’. In E. Hoekstra & C. Smits (red.) Morfologiedagen 1996. Cahiers van het Meertens Instituut 10, Amsterdam, 84-105.

Stroop, J. (1997), ‘Wordt het Poldernederlands model?’, Taal en Tongval themanummer 10, p. 10-29.

Weijnen, A. (1966) Nederlandse Dialectkunde. Van Gorcum, Assen.






1.  Classification of the area


1.1 Standard division

The province of Utrecht, in the centre of the Netherlands, is usually not attributed a dialect of its own. Instead it is the meeting place of two rather distinct dialects: western Dutch, which also incorporates dialects of Noord- and Zuid-Holland and is close to colloquial Standard Dutch, and the Eemland dialect in the Noord-East (Te Winkel 1908:117 coined this name of Eemlands). This Eemland dialect, that resembles some dialects of ‘het Gooi’ in adjacent Noord-Holland, can be considered as a part of the Veluwe dialect group, the western frontier of the Low Saxon speech family in the Netherlands.

The province is dialectgeographically dominated by the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, a range of hills that stretch from the Gooi-area (near Zuider Zee) in the north, in a south-east direction towards the river Rhine. Up to the 18th century, it was almost impossible to cross these hills, a desert land of sand dunes and heather (Meijers 1994:21). This separation of the populations living east and west of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug resulted in the most prominent bundle of isoglosses in the Netherlands north of the great rivers.


1.2 Dialecthistorical introduction

The town of Utrecht was the most important city in the northern Low Countries during the Middle Ages. The dome church and the dome tower (the biggest church and the highest tower in the Netherlands) still stand as a remembrance of those days. The Dutch declaration of independence was signed in Utrecht in 1579, but when the Netherlands came to real wealth and power in the following period, Utrecht had to hand over the crown to Amsterdam. It became a provincial town, with not much expanding power, only to be awakened from its sleep when railroads and motorways made it the national roundabout. Yet from the old days on, Utrecht might have formed a landbridge in transporting linguistic features from the Brabantic dialects, powerful in the early Middle Ages, to the dialects of Holland, the powers to be (see Heeroma 1936). Expansion from Holland in the sixteenth and seventeenth century (Kloeke 1927) may have moved some isoglosses in the province Utrecht more to the east. The street name Neude ([nø.d∂]) (< *hnodi, see Muller 1932) in Utrecht City points at umlaut of a long vowel that does not exist in the Utrecht City dialect anymore, and the same applies for the place name Breukelen (< Broclede, compare Brooklyn, founded by settlers from Breukelen) in the non-umlauting Vechtstreek. In these cases the non-umlauting dialects of Holland made the West-Utrecht dialects give up their umlauts, and nowadayas the isogloss of umlaut on long vowels includes only the east of the province.


1.3. Dialectgeographical introduction

The most salient features of the dialects in this province are:


·         a more closed pronunciation of [a]

·         lengthening of [α] before certain consonants (e.g. n)


When moving in a south-east direction, we see some characterististics getting more intensified. These characterististics are:  


·         shortening of vowels

·         deletion of word final [t] (not found north of Utrecht city)

·         palatal pronunciation of [x] (not found west of Utrecht city)


At the very edge of the province, Rhenen has even (at least in the first half of the 20th century) the pronoun 2Sing gij ([xei]), often regarded as the marker of southern Dutch dialects.

As a result of these cumulative changes, the dialects in the south-east show a greater linguistic distance from the dialects of Holland, and therefore to Standard-Dutch, than the dialects in the west. Yet most of these changes are gradual, not abrupt.

 The picture for the dialects spoken in the north-east of the province (Eemland) is completely different. These dialects, separated by the hills of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug from the rest of the province, build a strong opposition to all other dialects spoken in the province. They preserve some typical eastern Dutch elements, like:


·         undiphthongized wgm. î and û

·         umlaut of long vowels

·         preservation of n in the word final cluster ∂n (in the ending of most verbs and plural nouns)


The northern part has velarisation of postvocalic n > [η] after palatal vowels.

This Eemland region can, together with bordering Veluwe, be regarded as a relic area in the Dutch dialect landscape. The conservative character becomes even stronger towards the coast of the former Zuider Zee; the fisherman's town of Spakenburg and its twin Bunschoten still have palatal assimilation of wgm. sk > [S], the last resort of an area that once covered the whole east of the province.


1.4. Dialect studies

The first examples of the Utrecht dialect are, as often in the Low Countries, to be found in the Winkler Dialecticon, from 1874, a collection of commented translations of the parable of the prodigal son. Three dialects from two places are represented: one from Soest, and two from the city of Utrecht: the first in colloquial Utrechts, the second in ‘de platste spraak van de laagste klasse des volks’ (the most dialectical speech of the lowest class of common people). Utrecht is the only place in The Netherlands where such a division in dialects is made, at least in this Dialecticon, offering a sociolinguistic insight that is quite rare for those days. The Soest dialect is treated as an example of Eemland speech; yet it has some features (like unassimilated wgm. sk, not found elsewhere in the region) that make it a bit unreliable. Winkler regrets (on p. 359) that it was impossible to get a translation from the West of Utrecht.

Some fifty years later the study of the Utrecht dialect, especially of the city of Utrecht, was picked up by A. Beets, a close friend to Winkler, son of the well-known nineteenth-century writer N. Beets, and editor of the Woordenboek der Nederlandse Taal (WNT). Beets spent his youth in Utrecht, where his father was a clergyman (and later a professor in theology). His studies, which are basically word lists, contain mainly memories from his years in Utrecht.

Memories may also have been the source for Chr. Stapelkamp, a teacher of Dutch in Groningen, but born and raised in the Vechtstreek, in the north-west of the province. Like Beets, his studies merely deal with words. During his lifetime, these word studies appeared as articles in several journals. His legacy was edited by Van Veen and published as a book in 1989 (see 8.2)

In the footprints of Beets, P.J. Meertens published another series of word lists of the Utrecht dialect in the twenties (Meertens 1927-1929). Shortly before he had finished his study in Dutch linguistics and literature at the Utrecht university. In 1950, when he was head of the Amsterdam Dialect Bureau (now P.J. Meertens Institute), he returned to Utrecht in his contribution to the the bundle Hart van Nederland (Heart of the Netherlands) (Meertens 1950). The big difference, however, between this study and all its forerunners is that it does not provide word lists, but attempts to give a dialectological characteristic of Utrecht speech by describing a number of features.

T. van Veen, born in Zuid-Holland, and a (high)schoolmaster in the city of Utrecht, divides these features in eastern and western characteristics, thus building the basis for his dissertation ‘Utrecht tussen oost en west’ (Utrecht between the east and the west).

M.E.H. Schouten, a phonetician at the university of Utrecht, introduces quantitative sociolinguistics in the Utrecht dialect study, e.g. in his articles on t-deletion.

All in all, the attention for the Utrecht dialect has been rather sparse. In the Bibliography of Dialects in the Netherlands 1800-1950 (Meertens & Wander 1958) the province takes no more than 2.5 pages, of which one is dedicated to the Utrecht city dialect. This is to be compared to Groningen (78 pages) or Limburg (57 pages), which are about the same size and have the same number of inhabitants as Utrecht. The recent dialect revival in the Netherlands may have led to some local initiatives, yet they are not as strong as in the rest of The Netherlands. In the vademecum of the Dialectenboek by the Foundation for Dutch Dialects (SND), published every 2 years, Utrecht is not represented with an institute, board or dialect study society. It shares this fate with one other province, Flevoland, new land reclaimed from the Zuider Zee, where the absence of interest in dialect is quite explainable. Utrecht, at the center of the Dutch dialects, is surprisingly the white spot on the maps of Dutch dialectology.

One exception, however, has to be made: Het dialect der Noord-West-Veluwe, a dissertation by W. van Schothorst (1904). The title is somewhat misleading: the area covered in this book does not only consist of the Veluwe region, in the province of Gelderland, east of the province of Utrecht, but includes the dialects of eastern-Utrecht as well. Because of that misleading title, we do find this monograph not in the chapter ‘Utrecht’ of the Meertens & Wander bibliography mentioned above.

Van Schothorst (1877-1935), a teacher of Dutch, did not write much on dialects, but his book about this rather unknown group of dialects is truly a masterpiece. Of course it bears the traces of a neo-grammarian approach, e.g. in considering allophonic variation as separate sounds, but its phonetic descriptions (including duration measurements!) make the work useful even a century after it was written.



2. Phonetics and phonology


As the West and South Utrecht dialects are not very remote from Western Dutch and Standard Dutch, we will concentrate in our phonological and morphological description on the dialect of Eemland, around Amersfoort. Our description is based on Van Schothorst 1904, RND vol. 11, and fieldwork carried out in 2003.


2.1. Phoneme inventory


2.1.1        Vowels Long vowels


vowel                           example                        Dutch


/a/                                zak∂n                            zak∂(n)                         business

/O./                              jO.∂r                             ja.r                               year

/ε./                                pε.rt                              pa.rt                             horse

/e./                               re.t                               rei.t                              crack

/i¯/                               bi¯t∂n                           beit∂(n)                         to bite

/i/                                 Sit∂n                             sXit∂(n)                        to shoot

/ø/                                dø∂r                             dø.r                              door

/u/                                duk                               duk                               cloth

/y/                                Syw                              sxyw                            shy

/y¯/                              hy¯s                             hœys                            house


When we compare the phonemes (long vowels) of the Eemland dialect with their Dutch counterparts, we see the following major differences.

Wgm. î and û are not diphthongized (i, y). North of the great rivers Eemland forms the border zone of the non-diphthongizing speech area in the East of the Netherlands. Its most western outpost coincides with the Utrecht-North-Holland province border.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Eemland had started the process of diphthongizing the old monophtongs. The first stage of this process, the lowering of the closed monophthongs, is in the phoneme inventory above indicated with /i¯/ and /y¯/. In the fifties these variants disappeared almost completely from this region, to give way to either the diphthong ([ei] resp. [œy]), or more surprisingly, the closed monophthong ([i] and [u]) that was the starting point in the development (see Scholtmeijer 1997a).

Standard Dutch [a] is backed to [O] in the North-East Utrecht dialect. It is not clear whether this [O] has an eastern or a western origin; Te Winkel (1899:79) is in favour of the first possibility, Kloeke (1934:71 = 1952:203) sticks to the latter. In the rest of Utrecht, Standard Dutch [a] is pronounced [α:] (Schouten, Crielaard & Van Dijk 1998).

The very north, along the Zuider Zee coast, has (or had) a palatal pronunciation of wgm. â, [ε.]. The appearance of this [ε.] was already very scarce in the first half of the twentieth century, and it is questionable if it did not die out ever since (see Kloeke 1932: 149 = 1952:173, mentioning only a 93 years old Spakenburger practizing [ε.]). Yet the Bunschoten-Spakenburg dictionary from 1996 still gives ample evidence of [ε.], here spelled [ea].

A palatal pronunciation kes (Du. kaas, -cheese-) is found in the south-east of the province. This palatalization, however, is not the result of umlaut. The palatal [i] in kli.v∂r ‘clover’ is unique for this word, and is only found in the province of Utrecht (see Taalatlas map 2-5 ‘klaver’).

Allophonic palatalization (before r + s or t/d) is found in the south of the province, see 2.3.1. The over-all tendency is that the palatal counterparts of Dutch [a] in the south and in the north-east are gradually being replaced by [O], thus reducing the variation both in a phonological and a regional way. Short vowels


vowel                           example                        Dutch


/α/                                dαX                              dαX                              day

/ε/                                 gεk                               gεk                               mad

/I/                                 pIt                                pIt                                kernel

/O/                               hOk                              hOk                              shed

/V/                               brVX                            brVX                            bridge Schwa


/∂/                                lev∂n                            leiv∂(n)                         to live


Reduction of vowels in unstressed syllables to a schwa is far more common in Utrecht dialects than in (Standard) Dutch. Reduction of [e] and [ø] does not result in schwa, but in [I]: tIl∂fizi ‘television’. In unstressed syllables, the vowel can disappear altogether: plitsi ‘police’, psto.r ‘pastor’.

On the other hand, svarabhakti can occur both within syllables or at syllable boundaries: vrebVr∂X ‘Vreeburg’ (name of market square), kαr∂wεi (Du. karwei -job-) (Scholtmeijer 1996b:14). Diphthongs

In the Utrecht dialects we find the following diphthongs: [εi], [œi], [ai], [Oi], and [ou].

Wgm. î and û are not diphthongized east of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. Here they are still pronounced as [i] and [y]. The east of the province establishes with its undiphthongized pronunciation the limits of the Eastern Dutch dialect area. Yet there might be evidence for a first step towards diphthongization (i.e. a further widening of the monophtong, see above).

The rest of the province has diphthongs, like Standard Dutch. The west of the province has for wgm. î a diphthong that is somewhat wider as in (Standard) Dutch ([εi]), sounding [ai] or [a.i]. The South-West of the province (Lopikerwaard) has a secondary monophthong [ε.].

 For Standard Dutch [œy] we find in the south-west the wider diphthong [Oi] (ANKO map 12 ‘uit’), alongside the secondary monoftong [œ.].

Standard Dutch [au] is more or less the same in the Utrecht dialect.


2.1.2. Consonants


                        Bilabials            Labio-   Alveolar            Palatal  Velar    Glottal


Plosives            p, b                               t, d                                k, g

Fricatives                      v, f                   s, z                                           S, X   h

Nasals              m                                 n                                  η

Liquids                                                  r, l

Glides                           w                                             j


The one consonant combination differing from Dutch is the palatal assimilation of word initial wgm. sk- to [S], where Dutch has a velar (and more partial) assimilation to [sX] (written sch-).

This palatal assimilation stands, geographically, isolated from [S] in South-Limburg, which is part of a greater continuum that also covers the dialects of German. The area in the middle of the Netherlands, that includes the province of Utrecht, covered in the nineteenth century all between the city of Utrecht and the north of the Veluwe. Nowadays the palatal assimilation of [S] is only found among the older inhabitants of small villages in the heart of this area, that has clearly turned into a relic area. The only dialect in the province of Utrecht that still preserves [S] is that of the twin fisherman’s town of Bunschoten- Spakenburg (Scholtmeijer 1997b).

Utrecht [X] is especially in the south more palatal than in Dutch. This phenomenon, in the Netherlands often referred to as ‘zachte g’ (soft g) is in this country a marker of southern speech; therefore Utrecht can be said to be the most northern part of this rather extended area. Palatalization of g, however, is gradual: in the ‘deep south’, Limburg and Brabant, it is far more palatal than in the dialects of Utrecht. Standard Dutch has a velar fricative, rather typical within the Germanic language family.

Most consonants as such do not differ much from Standard Dutch, as seems to be the case in all Dutch dialects; their use and frequency in the dialects of Utrecht, however, is often quite different. The most famous exemple in the Utrecht dialect is undoubtedly the deletion of t.

Word final t is often deleted, especially after a stop or a fricative, but also after a vowel in ni ‘not’. Surprisingly, t (also written d) is more often deleted when it has a grammatical function, i.e. when it is a suffix in a finite verb or a perfect (see Schouten 1982:286).

Deletion of word final t connects Utrecht with the area immediately south of it, the Rivierengebied (River area). It is quite strong in the south-east, with percentages sometimes even over 50 (see Schouten 1984:167-169, Scholtmeijer 1993:30), but is almost absent in the north of the province. The t-deletion is also remarkably present in the city of Utrecht, according to the R.N.D. even up to a 100 percent. The urban character of the Utrecht-city speech may have reinforced the deletion of t; in Zuid-Holland, not really a t-deletion area, this phenomenon seems to be restricted to the cities (Leyden, The Hague etc.).

Contrary to this word final t-deletion, there is a tendency to put t at end of words that do not have this sound etymologically (and don’t have it in Dutch either). Again, this tendency is the strongest in the south of the province and in the city (and also in Zuid-Holland city dialects; however, it has been reported from area’s that don’t have t-deletion as well, see Van Vessem 1958 map zeis) which makes it tempting to think of hypercorrection. But we can also think of a paragogical t, which is far from uncommon in colloquial Dutch. A third possibilty is the effect of analogy, especially in the first person singular in verbs of the present tense (see 2.2.5).


2.2. Umlaut

Unlike Standard Dutch and western Dutch Dialects, the dialects in the east of Utrecht have umlaut on long vowels (like other Eastern Dutch dialects have).

The i-umlaut of wgm. â results in palatal [e]. In Eemland the umlaut was followed by a diphthongization, resulting in a diphthong [εi] (see Taalatlas 3 nr. 10, map ‘kaas’). The dictionary of the Bunschoten-Spakenburg dialect (1996) shows both ke.s (spelled keas) and keis. [ke.s], which has the old palatal vowel that used to appear along the Zuider Zee coast (see above) and that is not the umlaut product, might have been partially replaced by the diphthong that is the umlaut product.

The umlaut product of [o] is [ø]: høi ‘hey’ (Dutch hoi). In words with [o] that are not affected by umlaut, this [o] changed into [u] in this same region, the east (zum@r ‘summer’, Dutch zoum@r; vuX@l ‘bird’, Dutch vouX@l).

The area where we find umlaut of [u] reaches even south of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, with Wijk bij Duurstede, Cothen and Langbroek as its western limits (see Scholtmeijer 1993:42). Here the umlaut product is [ø], as in the North-East of the province, but to the very South-East we find the umlaut product [y], that is also found south of the province, in the Rivierengebied (River Area) (see ANKO map 9 ‘groen’).


2.3 Allophonic variation


2.3.1. Palatalization of [a]

Before r + s or t/d, palatalization of [a] takes place: ‘candle’, we.rt ‘worth’. Nowadays this change has become obsolete: ‘purple’ is frequently replaced by (see Scholtmeijer 1993:40).

In the Lopikerwaard, in the south of the province, we find before this combination of consonants instead of [e] the more open variant [ε.]; this is in fact a southern form, that crossed the river Lek and reaches in South-Utrecht its northern limits (see also ANKO map ‘waard’). In the South-east a tip of this area is penetrating the province as well, but here the shortened version [ε] is more common. However, in the whole of the South, [ε.]/[ε] is currently being replaced by [e.] (pe.rt ‘horse’), which can be considered as sub-standard, familiar to all colloquial Dutch, rather than dialect proper.


2.3.2. Rounding between labials

Eemland has rounding of wgm. î to [y] between labial consonants (vyf ‘five’, pyp ‘pipe’) (Scholtmeijer 1996a:181)


2.3.3. Velarization of [n]

Considering what is said above about [X] and [S] one might get the impression that the Utrecht dialect has a rather palatal base of articulation. However,the velarization of post-vocalic [n] into [η] does act upon this first impression.

Velarization of the nasal does not only take place before a dental consonant when the preceding vowel has the features [+ low] and [+ back], but more surprisingly, when the vowel is [I] (that is: + high, + front] as well. Moreover, velarization even takes place at the morpheme end when the preceding vowel is [+ high] and [+ front].

We will give examples of these three cases of velarization:


1. - V [+ low, + back]  C [+ nas] C [+ dent]: hOηt ‘dog’.

2. - V [+ high, + front] C [+ nas] C [+ dent]: kIηt ‘child’

3. - V [+ high, + front] C [+ nas] # : mIη ‘mine’.


In velarizations of the third type the process also involves shortening of the vowel.

Velarization after a palatal vowel is rare in the Netherlands (and probably anywhere else). North of the great rivers it is only found in Eemland (Scholtmeijer 1996a:182).



3. Morphology


3.1. Nouns


3.1.1. Plurals

The plural can be formed by:


1. suffix -∂n: [vIs] - [vIs∂n] ‘fish’

2. suffix -s: [dyv∂l] - [dyv∂ls] ‘devil’


The rules for selecting the suffixes 2, 3 and 4 are basically the same as in Standard Dutch.


Unproductive formation isfound in:


3. suffix -∂r∂n: [kαl∂f] - [kαl∂v∂r∂n] ‘calf’


Van Schothorst (1904) also mentions the two following plurals:


4.change of stem vowel: [h y¯s] - [hys] ‘house’, [w I¯f] - [wif] ‘wife’

5. no change: [Sap] -[Sap] ‘sheep’


They were  typical for the Eemland dialect, but have disappeared from this dialect as well. The other formations can be found in all Utrecht dialects (with deletion of final n in the West].


3.1.2. Diminutives

Unfortunately, and for reasons unknown, Van Schothorst does not pay attention to diminutive formation. This neglect can certainly not be explained by the fact that the diminutive formation would be uninteresting: it is one of the most distinctive elements in the grammar of Utrecht dialects, and it is quite rewarding to look at from a linguistic point of view. For that reason, we present here the description of the Utrecht diminutives by Van den Berg (1975), based on the dialect of Utrecht city, but valid for other dialects in the province as well.


The diminutive system of the Utrecht city dialect shows the following endings:


[i]: after f, s, X, k, p : fits - fitsi ‘bike’

[Xi]: after vowels and glides (j, w): auto - autoXi ‘car’

[∂Xi]: after l, r, n, m, η, preceded by a short vowel (but not schwa): stεr - stεr∂Xi ‘star’

[si]: after t : kart - kartsie ‘card’

[tsi]: after l, r and n preceded by a long vowel: sXol - sXoltsi ‘school’

[pi]: after m: blum - blumpi ‘flower’

[ki]: after η: konIη - konIηki ‘king’


All suffixes have the vowel [i], which is also found in a wide range of other dialects and in colloquial Dutch (Standard Dutch has [∂] as diminutive suffix vowel). The variation in the diminutive suffix is restricted to the initial consonant, and this is depending on the last phoneme of the preceding word. On the basis of the words ending in vowels, Van den Berg argues that the root suffix is [Xi] (written -gie) (see also Nijen Twilhaar 1990:49, who gives a slightly different argumentation). All other suffixes are the result of (partial) assimilation of the [X]-consonant to the preceding consonant of the word in question.

In the case of fricatives, there is an assimilation of place: [+ back] becomes [+ front]: -f + Xi > fi; -s + Xi > si.

After t, only a partial assimilation is realized. The place of articulation [+ back] becomes [+ front]. Yet the fricative nature of the [X] is maintained in [s]: -t + Xi > tsi.

After bilabial m, the fricative could no longer be maintained: the Utrecht dialect has, like Standard Dutch, no bilabial fricatives. Therefore a bilabial plosive is inserted: -m + Xi > mpi.

The same holds for the velar nasal [η]. Having no fricative in this articulation place, the dialect opts for a plosive: -η+ Xi > ηki.

A plosive is selected as well (in stead of [X]) when the word ends in a plosive, like k or p: -p + Xi > pi; -k + Xi > ki. However, as two subsequent identical consonants appear, the process of degemination makes only one audible.

Another explanation is needed for the [tsi] after n, r or l. Van den Berg thinks of a paragogic t, that is often heard after words ending in r. This t always shows up when a transition sound is needed between an alveolar consonant and the fricative s of the ending.

More complicated is the short vowel followed by a sonorant consonant (l, r, n, η, m): in these words we do not only find a suffix, but a binding morpheme (∂) as well. This binding morpheme occurs only in monosyllabic words, and in polysyllabic words when sonority is increasing towards the word end. Hence konIη, where kon- has more sonority than -, has a diminutive konIηki.

The word final t (also written d) that appears in plurals like hofd∂ ‘heads’, kOrst∂ ‘crusts’, tOXt∂ ‘trips’, and that is usually deleted in the Utrecht surface forms does not appear in diminutives: hofi, kOrsi, tOXi (cf. Van den Berg 1975:101).


3.2. Adjectives


3.2.1. Suffixes

The suffix can be either ∂ or zero. In selecting the suffix there are no fundamental differences from Standard Dutch.


3.2.2. Degrees of comparison

Comparative: -∂r. After -r, -l, and -n a d is inserted: zwO.rd∂r ‘heavier’.

Superlative: -st.


3.3. Pronouns


3.3.1. Introduction

Like Dutch, there is no distinction (anymore) between male and female nouns. Only personal and possesive pronouns referring to natural persons maintain a difference, but peasants at the beginning of our century had given up even this distinction as well: girls or women could be referred to by the same pronouns that were used for boys and men (see also the example of 19th c. Leusden literature in 7.2).


The Eemland dialect of Bunschoten-Spakenburg has the following pronouns:


3.3.2. Personal Pronouns


                        Subject                                     Object


1Sing                Ik                     .                       mIN, m∂ 

2Sing                ji, j∂                                          ju, j∂

3SingM             hi                                              hVm, ∂m

3SingF              zi, z∂                                         hø.r, d∂r, t∂r

3SingN             ∂t, t                                           ∂t, t

1Plur                wie, w∂, wyli                             ONs

2Plur                jyli                                            jyli

3Plur                zi, z∂,  høli                                 z∂, høli


3.3.3. Possesive Pronouns


                        adjectival                                  substantival


1Sing                miN, m∂n                                  d∂, ∂t mIN∂(n)

2Sing                ju, j∂                                        

3SingM             hVm                                        

3SingF              hø.r                                         

3SingN             hVm                                        

1Plur                ONs                                         d∂, ∂t ONz∂(n)

2Plur                jylis                                          

3Plur                hølis                                        


Substantival use of possesive pronouns is rare, and restiricted tot the first person.



3.3.4. Demonstrative Pronouns


                        adjectival                                  substantival


SingM               de                                             de

SingF                de                                             de

SingN               dαt, dIt,                                     dαt, dIt

PlurMFN          de                                             de


Note that in M, F and Plural there is no difference between ‘this’and ‘that’. In N, dαt is more common than dIt.



3.3.5. Interrogative Pronouns


                        substantival                               adjectival


SingM               we                                            wαfVr, wel∂k, wel∂k∂(n)

SingF                we                                            wαfVr, wel∂k, wel∂k∂(n)

SingN               wαt                                          wαfVr, wel∂k, wel∂k∂(n)

PlurMFN          we                                            wαfVr, wel∂k, wel∂k∂(n)


3.3.6. Relative Pronouns


MF                   de

N                     dαt


3.4. Articles


                        definite                                     indefinite


SingM               d∂                                             ∂n

SingF                d∂                                             ∂n

SingN               ∂t, t                                           ∂n

PlurMFN          d∂


3.5. Numerals


                        cardinals                                   ordinals


1                      e∂n                                           e∂rst∂

2                      twej                                          twejd∂

3                      drej                                           dard∂

4                      vi∂r                                           vi∂rd∂

5                      vyf                                           vydfd∂

6                      zes                                           zesd∂

7                      zøv∂n                                       zøv∂d∂

8                      αxt                                           αxst∂

9                      neg∂n                                       neg∂d∂

10                     tin                                             ti∂nd∂

11                     el∂f                                           el∂vd∂

12                     twal∂f                                       etc.

13                     dartin

14                     ve.rtin

15                     vyftin

16                     zestin

17                     zøv∂tin

18                     αxtin

19                     neg∂tin

20                     twInt∂X                                    twInt∂Xst∂

21                     enentwInt∂X


30                     dαrt∂X

40                     fert∂X

50                     fyft∂X

60                     sεst∂X

70                     søv∂t∂X

80                     tαXt∂X (older : tαX∂nt∂X)

90                     neX∂nt∂X (older : tneX∂nt∂X)

100                   hONd∂rt                                               hONd∂rtst∂

101                   hONd∂rdεnen or hONd∂rden

1000                 dyz∂t                                        dyz∂tst∂



3.6. The verb


(Examples from the Bunschoten-Spakenburg dialect)


3.6.1. To BE

                        Indic.                Imper.              Inf.                   Part.


                                                wes                  zin                    ∂west

Present Tense


1Sing                            bIn

2Sing                            bIn

3Sing                            Is

123Plur                         bIn


Past Tense


1Sing                            wαs

2Sing                            wυr∂

3Sing                            wαs

123Plur                         wυr∂n


3.6.2. Weak verbs and irregular verbs


war∂k∂n ‘to work’


Present Tense



1Sing                            war∂k

2Sing                            war∂k∂

3Sing                            war∂kt

123Plur                         war∂k∂n


In the south and in the west, we do find sometimes a -t ending in 1Sing: wεr∂kt.


Past Tense

weak                                                    Past participle: ∂war∂kt ‘worked;

123Sing             war∂kt∂

123Plur                         war∂k∂n



bliv∂n ‘stay’     

                                                            Past participle: ∂blev∂n ‘died’

1Sing                            blef

2Sing                            blev∂

3Sing                            blef

123Plur                         blev∂n


Contrary to Saxon dialects spoken in the East of the Netherlands and in Germany, the Eemland dialect lacks the ‘Saxon’ feature of the plural ending on -t for all forms of plural present tense (so-called Einheitsplural). With its suffix -∂n in infinitives, plurals and strong participes the Eemland dialect originally took a position between the syllabic nasal of the Eastern Dutch dialects and the mere of the Western Dutch dialects, including the West and South of Utrecht. In the RND (with recordings in the fifties) the isogloss of the preserved nasal had receded behind the province-border. Only the fisherman’s towns of Spakenburg and Huizen (the latter in Noord-Holland) still had ∂n-suffixes (Scholtmeijer 1997a:88).


Ablautsreihe      Inf                    Pres 1Sing        Pret.


I.                      bliv∂n                blif                    blef, blev∂n, ∂blev∂n ‘stay’

II.                     git∂n                 git                     gøt, gøt∂n, ∂gøt∂n ‘pour’

                        styv∂n               styf                   støf, støv∂n, ∂støv∂n ‘blow’

III.                   krImp∂n            krImp               krOmp, krOmp∂n, ∂krOmpen ‘shrink’

                        hεl∂p∂n             hεl∂p                 hOl∂p, hOl∂p∂n, ∂hOl∂p∂n ‘help’

                        star∂v∂n            star∂f                stœr∂f, stœr∂v∂n, ∂stœr∂v∂n ‘die’

IV.                   nem∂n              nem                  nœm, nœm∂n, ∂nøm∂n ‘take’

                        Ser∂n                Se.r                  Sø.r, Sør∂n, ∂Sør∂n ‘shave’

V.                    gev∂n               gef                   gœf, gœv∂n, ∂gøv∂n ‘give’

                        zIt∂n                 zIt                    zœt, zœt∂n, ∂zet∂n ‘sit’

VI.                   bak∂n               bak                   bœk, bœk∂n, ∂bœk∂n ‘bake’

                        drO.X∂n           drO.X               drøX, drøX∂n, ∂drøX∂n ‘carry’




The verbal cluster

The Atlas van de Nederlandse Dialectsyntaxis does not show any word orders that are typical for Utrecht, or word orders in the province of Utrecht that are deviant from Dutch. Yet we find in a piece of speech from Langbroek the following sentence:


nou eh in ‘t voorjer wordt ‘t a(a)chtendertig jaor dat ik daorop komme wône bin  

well eh in the spring become it eight-and-thirty year that I there-on come live am

‘well, eh, this spring it will be thirty-eight years since I came living here’.

(Van Veen & Van den Berg 1966:14)


The order of the verbs is 231, where 1 is the verb which is highest in the syntactic tree, the auxiliary of the perfect. Here 2 is the auxiliary komme ‘come’, which has the form of an infinitive because of the IPP-effect which is also present in Standard Dutch, but absent in the northern dialects. Standard Dutch would require: ‘......ben komen wonen’, with the auxiliary of the perfect in initial position. Hoekstra (1997) made maps of this phenomenon on the basis of the dialect enquiries of the Meertens Instituut. The relevant order is occasionally found in Utrecht, but there are massive occurrences of it in the province of Zeeland (in the West of The Netherlands) and in Flanders (in the West of Belgium).  


5. Lexicon


5.1. Sources

Although it may look as if vocabularies of the Utrecht dialect are similar to the vocabulary of Standard Dutch, we do have a couple of interesting dictionaries. These are:

·         Taal en leven in de Utrechtse Vechtstreek, by T. van Veen (1989), based on an older manuscript by Chr. Stapelkamp (1879-1961), who may have relied on his youth-memories

·         Zuidutrechts Woordenboek (the south of the province: Kromme-Rijnstreek and Lopikerwaard), by H. Scholtmeijer (1993)

·         Woordenboek Spakenburg-Bunschoten, by M. Nagel & M. Hartog (1996), based on a manuscript by G. Blokhuis made in 1936-1949, but revised up-to-date by means of intensive field work.

·         Woordenboek van de stad Utrecht (city of Utrecht), by B. Martens van Vliet (1996, 2nd print 1997, 3rd print 2000, 4th print 2003).

·         The dissertation of Van Schothorst (1904) includes an extended word-list over the Eemland dialect.



5.2. Word-geographical distribution

When we take a look at the maps of the Taalatlas van Noord- en Zuid-Nederland, we see in some cases Utrecht joining the west, in other cases joining the east, and often the division between east and west runs just across the province. The eastern forms then are found in Eemland and occasionally in the eastern Utrechtse Heuvelrug, while the rest of the province has the western variant. The Taalatlas shows only one word (on map 2-5) that seems to be typical for the Utrecht dialect: kliever ‘clover’ (Dutch klaver), which is absent, however, in the east of the province.

Three words have a geographical distribution that sets them apart from the bulk of the words:

 Kelderzog (‘wood-louse’, map 1-3) is found in Utrecht, Betuwe (Gelderland), and the north-east of the province Noord-Brabant. The West has pissebed, the east keldermot.

 Hoorn (‘cock-pigeon’, map 1-6) is found in Utrecht and the West-Veluwe, and also in Betuwe, the east of the province Noord-Brabant and in Limburg. The west and the north have doffer (also Standard language), the East ‘oarend’.

 Zog (‘sow’, map 1-8) is found in an area that covers Utrecht, the east of the provinces Holland, Brabant except for western Noord-Brabant and Limburg. The rest of Holland has, like in Dutch, zeug, while the east says motte.

No matter how impressive this southern connection looks, these words build only a very small minority of the whole sample of words in the Taalatlas. Hol (1959) mentions a few more, but their geographical distribution is, at least in our opinion, not entirely beyond doubt.


6. Sociolinguistics


6.1. Sociological position of the dialect

Van Schothorst complains already in 1904 (:vi) about outside forces pushing back the dialect use to a small core of old peasants. Nevertheless the dialects of Utrecht had the best chance of surving in the part of the province he describes, that is the N.E. (Eemland). But even here the city of Amersfoort (population over 100,000) and its suburbs like Hoogland and Leusden are a serious threat to the indigeneous dialects.

The province of Utrecht, with its many commuter towns (the so-called Stichtse Lustwarande, consisting of De Bilt, Zeist, Driebergen, Doorn etc. was already fashionable in the 19th c.) and its central position in the Netherlands attracted a population from all over the country. This can explain why the local dialect, probably more than elsewhere,  is declining.

The Utrecht city dialect has a nation-wide fame due to a battery of Utrecht based cabaretists (De Gooyer, Van Veen, Berkien, Schouten) who use(d) its characteristics to depict the man in the street. This point might illustrate as well that the Utrecht dialect has a low social position.


6.2. Dialect literature

Both Soest and Oud-Leusden are represented in Leopold’s collection of dialect texts ‘Van de Schelde tot de Weichsel’, from 1882. The 7 texts from Oud-Leusden are reported and probably written by the famous nineteenth century scholar of Dutch R.A. Kollewijn. Although they are presented as folk tales and folk songs, they do have a touch of literary craftmanship in them.

Literature in the more traditional sense (although not everybody would recognize it as literature) is established by the work of Herman de Man (a pseudonym for Salomon Hamburger). De Man, born Jew and a converted Catholic, depicts the Orthodox-Protestant Lopikerwaard. In his way of trying to capture the couleur locale, he makes a naturalistic use of the dialect, which is, however, not very natural and close; therefore it cannot be used for dialect study (see Kooiman 1951).



7. Example of a dialect


7.1. Text and comments

The following text is from Leopold & Leopold, 1882 (Vol. 1:532) The dialect is that of Oud-Leusden (now Leusden) in the east of the province. It is signed ‘K.’.




Ek wouw da’k en koei was van Evert van ‘t Zand,

Dan brocht mie zien Soare1-n-elk’ oched noar ‘t land,

En klopte-n-ok mien dan zo goeig oppe rug,

En dri’ef2 m’as ‘k ‘emolleke was wi’er terug.


Wat zouw ek mooi bulleke, staoteg en langk!

Ek zouw et zo moake-n-as karekgezangk.

En zeedie3: Wat zingtie!’ en gaftie m’en tik -

Herjenning! ‘k ‘eleuf4, dat ek barste van sjik5.


En dan mitte wa’rmte! Wanner ‘t zo es was

Ziej! dat-ie in sloap was ‘evalle-n-in ‘t gras -

Noe! ‘k wi’et wel, da’ ‘k zachies beziej’ van ‘em sloop,

Hum smokte! - en dan as en hoas oppe loop!





1. Du [a] is backed to [O.], see

2. Wgm. î is not diphthongized, see

3. Male pronouns (here: ie, enclitical ‘he’) for female persons, see 3.3.1

4. Umlaut of [o], see 2.2

5. Palatal assimilation of wgm. [sk-], see 2.1.2


7.2. Narrow translation in Standard Dutch




Ik wilde dat ik een koe was van Evert van ‘t Zand

Dan bracht mij zijn Saar elke ochtend naar het land,

En klopte ook mij dan zo goedig op de rug,

En dreef me als ik gemolken was weer terug.


Wat zou ik mooi loeien, statig en lang!

Ik zou het zo maken als kerkgezang.

En zei hij: ‘Wat zingt hij’ en gaf-ie me ‘n tik -

Heerjee! ‘k geloof, dat ik barstte van schik.


En dan met de warmte! Wanneer het zo eens was

Zie! dat-ie in slaap was gevallen in ‘t gras -

Nou, ‘k weet wel, dat ik zachtjes naast hem sloop,

Hem kuste! - en dan als een haas op de loop!


7.3. Translation in English




I wish I was a cow of Evert van ‘t Zand

then his Sarah would take me every morning to the land,

and knocked me friendly on my back,

and drove me, after I had been milked, back.


How would I low, solemn and long,

I would make it sound like a church-song.

And said she: ‘How he sings !’ and flick me -

Good Lord! My pleasures were overwhelmingly.


And then in the heat! If it so was

Look! she had fallen asleep in the grass -

Now! I guess, aside her I silently trod,

Kissed her! and I’d be off like a shot!



8. Bibliography


8.1 Series of Dutch Dialect Atlases (R.N.D.)

Most of the province is covered in vol. 11, Zuid-Holland en Utrecht. This volume contains transcriptions of 22 dialects in the province of Utrecht.

Vol. 10, Oost-Noord-Brabant, de Rivierenstreek en Noord-Nederlands Limburg, covers three dialects in the south-east.

The rest of the east, 11 dialects, is covered by vol. 12, Gelderland en Zuid-Overijsel.


8.2 Books & articles

Beets, A. (1927-1929), Utrechtse volkswoorden en volksgezegden; lijst van dialectische en plaatselijke woorden, woordvormen, wendingen en uitdrukkingen, gezegden en spreekwoorden; opteekeningen over gebruiken en gewoonten enz.’. Driemaandelijksche Bladen 22, 1-30, 73-103, 106-107, 108.

Van den Berg, B. (1975), De morfonologische regels voor de vorming van het verkleinwoord in het dialect van de stad Utrecht. Taal en Tongval 27, p. 95-102.

Hol, A.R. (1959), Utrecht een ‘filiaal’ van Brabant? Taal en Tongval 11 p.184-189.

Koopmans-van Beinum, F.J. (1973), Comparative phonetic vowel analysis. Journal of Phonetics 1, p. 249-261.